Critical drug shortages affects U. S amid China dependency

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By Carina

The ongoing scarcity of vital medications has trapped Americans between a rock and a hard place. 

Active national drug shortages hit a 10-year high this year, leaving many healthcare providers, pharmacies, and hospitals without enough life-saving and supportive medications, according to data collected by the University of Utah Drug Information Service.

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Survey shows alarming rise in medication shortages

A survey by the same university in July found that 99 percent of the 1,123 pharmacists who responded reported shortages, with one-third deeming them “critically impactful.” 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists 124 medications in short supply as of Dec. 21; the list peaked at 309 earlier this year.

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Impact on patient lives: A personal account

Securing medication is also a challenge for those managing chronic illnesses. 

Jennifer, a Waterford, Michigan, resident, shared her frustration with medication shortages, stating, “The pharmacist told me it’s on backorder, and, ‘You need to call around to see if other stores or pharmacies have it in stock.’ 

And I’m like, no, that’s your job.” Jennifer’s struggle to obtain Ozempic, a drug affected by shortages, highlights the real and immediate consequences patients face.

Two decades-long history of drug shortages in U.S. 

Medication scarcity isn’t a new problem. U.S. drug shortages have plagued Americans for nearly 20 years, with challenges ranging from acquiring raw materials to manufacturing and regulatory issues. 

The heavy reliance on other countries for pharmaceutical manufacturing, particularly China and India, has drawn criticism from lawmakers, emphasizing the need for domestic production.

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Dependency on foreign manufacturing: A Vulnerable Position

As of 2021, China became the world’s leading supplier of critical pharmaceutical components. 

Former President Donald Trump’s efforts to address this issue included a $354 million deal with Phlow Corp. to increase domestic manufacturing of generic drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). 

While progress has been made, challenges persist, and the Biden administration has invoked the Defense Production Act to encourage investment in essential medicine manufacturing.

Challenges in bringing manufacturing back to U.S.

Despite these efforts, healthcare workers argue that the steps taken are insufficient. 

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Dr. Jared Ross emphasizes that bringing back key starting material (KSM) manufacturing to the U.S. is crucial. He notes the complexities involved, including regulatory compliance and environmental concerns. 

Dr. Ross insists on reducing government regulation and embracing free-market solutions to make domestic manufacturing economically viable.

Complexity of retooling facilities and reluctance of manufacturers

Practicing clinician, Chris McDermott highlights the reluctance of drug manufacturers to shift production domestically. 

He points out that retooling existing facilities requires significant investment and time, disrupting current production models. 

McDermott stresses the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address and prevent drug shortages, placing patient well-being at the forefront.

Legislative hurdles and reluctant manufacturers

Dr. Kelvin Fernandez acknowledges the role of legislative aspects and reluctant drug manufacturers in impeding progress. 

Navigating bureaucracies and the increased costs associated with domestic manufacturing contribute to hesitations. 

The multifaceted nature of the problem requires a holistic approach to ensure a stable and reliable supply chain for essential medications.

Tackling U.S. medication shortage calls ‘comprehensive solutions’ 

The medication shortage crisis in the United States demands comprehensive solutions that address manufacturing challenges, legislative barriers, and the well-being of patients. 

The current efforts, while commendable, underscore the need for a more extensive and coordinated approach to safeguard the nation’s healthcare system from the impacts of medication shortages.

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