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FDA concerned about drug shortages

As the country continues to face a nationwide drug shortage, federal regulators are working with drug makers to ease the impact on consumers.

The Food and Drug Administration said last week that it is asking for advanced warning of production shortages - particulary on "medically necessary" drugs.

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The regulatory agency said medicine shortages are continuing to rapidly increase after reaching a record high in 2010. The number of drug shortages has nearly tripled over the last six years—jumping from 61 drug products in 2005 to 178 in 2010, according to the FDA. The figures don't include shortages of vaccines, immune globulin products, and other biologics, or products made from blood, tissue, or other biological source.

Most of the supply problems have involved "sterile injectables," or medicines that are given by injection or intravenously to patients in the hospital. The shortages include cancer drugs; anesthetics used for patients having surgery; "crash cart" drugs used in emergencies; electrolytes for patients being fed intravenously; and other drug products.

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There have also been shortages of prescription drugs taken orally, including some drugs prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

They also want people to let them know if patients think their drug is also limited in supply, but is not on the list.

Send the name and dose of the drug and contact information to the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov.

Doctors may be able to refer other drugs if there is a shortage.

The FDA can also work with other drug makers and ask them to ramp up production if they know about a shortage ahead of time.

However, drug makers are not required legally to say if they are going to stop production of a drug.

The shortages have been caused by lack of raw materials used to make the drug and increased demand for some drugs. Some companies have simply decided to stop producing older, less profitable drugs.

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