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The Fight on Drug Shortages


So far in 2012 there have been significantly less drug shortages than during the same time frame a year ago.

Although 2011 was the year of record drug shortages, 2012 is definitely a new year, and the FDA is reporting that U.S. drug shortages have already fallen dramatically.

Six months ago, the FDA asked drug manufacturers to voluntarily report any potential drug shortages, and the response has been incredibly helpful.

“Early notification to FDA of potential disruptions in drug supply has made a huge difference in our efforts and the numbers really tell the story,” wrote FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, in a blog post. “Since reaching out to industry, there has been a six-fold increase in early notifications from manufacturers.”

Hamburg wrote that the FDA prevented 128 drug shortages over the last six months. So far there have only been 42 new drug shortages reported in 2012. During the same time last year there had been 90 drug shortages.

— and aren’t expected to be any more issues — for methotrexate, which treats childhood leukemia and osteosarcoma, there are still shortages to face. Leucovorin is used along with methotrexate to treat children with a serious form of leukemia, but it continues to be in short supply.

Preventing these drug shortages is especially essential for life-saving drugs such as ones that treat cancer. But while there are no longer any shortages

But the early notification system works. When Hospira informed the FDA that it expected delays of the anesthetic propofol, the agency was able to work with the other manufacturer of the drug to increase production.

“While there’s no simple solution, we are making progress,” Hamburg wrote. “And we’ll remain vigilant — doing all we can and using every resource available to make sure patients have access to the critical medicines they need, when they need them.”

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