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Fixing the National Drug Supply Shortage

November 28, 2023

Amid a year of drug shortages, federal leaders this week announced they would use the Defense Production Act to improve the domestic supply of essential medicines.

The shortages have been a concern this year, as providers and patients have reported challenges finding Adderall, amoxicillin, and certain cancer treatments, among other critical drugs. Notably, the Defense Production Act was used during the pandemic to support our emergency response to COVID-19.

“To ensure Americans always have the essential medicines and other critical medical products we need, we must have more control over our supply chains,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Here’s what you need to know:

  • About:  The Defense Production Act will allow the federal government to offer incentives that can help increase production of essential pharmaceuticals and prioritize our domestic supply. HHS would like to address the nation’s overreliance on overseas suppliers.
  • The issue:  The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists reported that drug shortages approached an all-time high earlier this year, with 309 ongoing drug shortages.
    • Chemotherapy treatments, corticosteroids and hormonal drugs, oral liquids, and “crash cart” drugs were among those in the “critical” category.
  • A new partnership:  The Energy and Commerce departments will operate a new Supply Chain Center that will coordinate “deep-dive” analysis of critical supply chains and assess vulnerabilities for critical drugs.
  • HHS initiatives:  HHS also will allocate $35 million in domestic production for key starting materials for sterile injectable drugs. The department will designate a new supply chain resilience and shortage coordinator “to strengthen the resilience of medical product and critical food supply chains, and to address related shortages.”
  • Quotable:  “In addition to having the necessary data and insights for visibility into supply chain disruptions, we need to be better positioned to help our partners in the private sector mitigate supply chain disruptions,” Becerra said. “The actions we have taken today, and will continue to take, accomplish these goals.”

HAP continues to monitor the drug supply shortages and provide updates to members. Additional information about the federal initiative is available online.