The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released data that shows the drug shortage situation in the U.S. is hitting a 10-year high in the first quarter of 2023.

Medscape reported, “Among the top five drug classes affected by shortages are chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancer, many of which do not have alternatives.”

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Why is this important? The New York Times reported that the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer, Dr. William Dahut, said, “If these drugs are not available, people are going to get inferior care,” while further emphasizing, “These aren’t third- or fourth-line drugs where there are multiple other agents around. These are used up front for people you are trying to cure.”

The report also found that even though drug shortages last typically about 1.5 years, “15 critical drug products have been in shortage for over a decade,” according to CNN.

In December 2022, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies in the U.K. reported that the shortage of antibiotics have reached “unacceptable” levels.

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What is causing the drug shortage? The Food and Drug Administration reported that some of the reasons contributing to the drug shortage situation are:

  • Manufacturing quality issues.
  • Delays in production of the drugs.
  • Suppliers mishandling materials.
  • Discontinuation of drugs, materials and equipment.

Frontiers in Pharmacology reported that another reason for drug shortages are stockpiling and panic buying of medications during the pandemic.

“Alongside households, hospitals began stockpiling these medications, which made it difficult for pharmacies to get what they needed to meet community demands,” according to Fox News.

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Quotes to note: “This is, in my opinion, a public health emergency,” Dr. Amanda Fader, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a president-elect of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, said. “Because of the breadth of the individuals it affects and the number of chemotherapy agents that are in shortage right now.”

Medical Economics reported that the chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Action Network, Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, said, “The shortage of certain cancer drugs has become a serious and life-threatening issue for cancer patients across the country.”