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  1. Drug Shortages

Text Version: Drug Shortages Infographic

(Graphic: Capsule held between finger and thumb) Patient care is our primary concern. Since 1999, FDA has  worked with the pharmaceutical industry and stakeholders to address this  critical issue that impacts health care delivery in the United States.

(Graphic: Gloved hand injecting liquid through syringe into an IV)

Types of Drugs FDA Considers for Drug Shortages

(Graphic: Prescription pad) FDA prioritizes drugs that are medically necessary. A  medically necessary drug product is a product that is used to treat or prevent  a serious disease or medical condition for which there is no alternative drug,  available in adequate supply, that medical staff has determined to be an  acceptable substitute. Although the agency focuses on medically necessary  drugs, all potential shortages are evaluated to help determine the possible  public health impact.

Reasons for Drug Shortages

(Graphic: Pie Chart)

Raw Materials 27%
Quality Manufacturing Issues 37%
Quality: Delays/Capacity 27%
Loss of Manufacturing Site 2%
Increased Demand 5%
Discontinuation 2%

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FDA Works to Prevent Drug Shortages

(Graphic: Person looking through telescope) FDA works to find ways to mitigate drug shortages. However,  there are a number of factors that can cause or contribute to drug shortages  that are outside of FDA's control. Sometimes manufacturers have an unforeseen  breakdown in manufacturing line that affects their production. Other times,  shortages are caused by longstanding quality manufacturing issues.

FDA cannot require a pharmaceutical company to:

  • make a drug, even if it is a medically necessary drug,
  • make more of a drug,
  • change how much and to whom the drug is distributed.

(Graphic: Notebook titled Strategic Plan) FDA issued a long-term strategic plan to outline the agency’s priority actions, as well as actions drug manufacturers and stakeholders can take to prevent drug shortages by promoting and sustaining quality manufacturing.

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FDA Responds to Drug Shortages 

(Graphic: Gloved hand holding IV) FDA responds to potential drug shortages by taking actions  to address their underlying causes and to enhance product availability. FDA  determines how best to address each shortage situation based on its cause and the  public health risk associated with the shortage.

FDA works to maintain availability of a drug in a variety of  ways, while minimizing the risk to patients.

For manufacturing/quality problems, FDA works with the firm  to address the issues. Problems range from very low risk, such as the wrong  expiration date on package, to high risk, such as particulate in product or  sterility issues.

FDA also works with other pharmaceutical companies making  the drugs that are in shortage to determine if they have the capacity to assist  and if they are willing to do so.

When the U.S. manufacturers are not able to resolve a  shortage immediately and the shortage involves a critical drug needed for  patients, FDA may look for a pharmaceutical company that is able to redirect  product into the U.S. market to address a shortage. FDA considers a list of  criteria to evaluate the product to ensure efficacy and safety, including the  formulation and other attributes of the drug, as well as the quality of the  manufacturing site where the drug is made.

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The Pharmaceutical Industry Can Help Prevent Drug Shortages

(Graphic: IV in patient's wrist and a syringe) While FDA and industry has made progress, patients are still  experiencing drug shortages that impact their care. A high percentage of drug  shortages have been, and continue to be, sterile injectables, including  chemotherapy, anesthesia and other acute drugs. When there are quality or  production problems for sterile injectables, it is not uncommon for a shortage  to occur. FDA will continue to work with manufacturers and other stakeholders  to ensure that needed medicines are available to the American public.

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Shortages Reported

   2011  2012  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
 All Forms  251  117  44  44 26 23 35 50
 Injectables  183  84  35  30 15 17 26 24

Shortages Averted

   2011  2012  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
 All Forms  191  282  170  101 142 115 132 146
 Injectables  165  213  145  62 92 87 51 109


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For more information on drug shortages visit the FDA Drug Shortages Web page.

U.S Food and Drug Administration

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

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