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Drug Shortages Reach New Highs during early 2024

April 18, 2024

U.S. drug shortages reached record levels during the first quarter of 2024.

There were 323 active shortages during the first quarter of 2024, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the University of Utah Drug Information Service. This previous high was 320 from 2014.

“All drug classes are vulnerable to shortages,” Paul W. Abramowitz, ASHP CEO, said in a statement this month. “Some of the most worrying shortages involve generic sterile injectable medications, including cancer chemotherapy drugs and emergency medications stored in hospital crash carts and procedural areas. Ongoing national shortages of therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also remain a serious challenge for clinicians and patients.”

Among the key takeaways:

  • Critical functions:  Critical medications for chemotherapy, pain, sedation, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have been in consistently short supply.
  • Shortage mix:  About 46 percent of the new shortages identified this year involve injectable drugs.
  • Cost of shortages:  A report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released last month noted that hospitals spend “at least $600 million per year managing shortages and diverting essential personnel who are needed for direct patient care.”
    • ASHP noted the toll on the pharmacy workforce to change pharmacy automation and electronic health records when managing shortages.
  • Search for solution:  Federal lawmakers and other health care organizations have pinpointed several areas to address in policy and regulation, including supply chain vulnerabilities, challenges in the generic drug market, and the lack of incentives to manufacture certain products.
  • Quotable:  “Shortages continue to pose a real and persistent challenge to public health—particularly when the shortage involves a critical drug used to treat cancer, pain, infection, heart conditions, autoimmune disease, behavioral health conditions, or to address another serious medical condition for which adequate alternative treatments are not available,” the HHS report noted.

HAP continues to monitor the latest drug shortage updates. The latest data from the ASHP is available online.