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    Hundreds of drugs in short supply, pharmacists warn

    By Mary Kekatos,


    Drug shortages have reached an all-time high in the United States, pharmacists are warning .

    During the first three months of 2024, there were 323 active medication shortages, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and Utah Drug Information Service. Previously, the record high was 320 shortages in 2014.

    This ASHP started tracking shortages in 2001.

    MORE: Patients, health care providers face shortages of critical drugs, Senate report finds

    "All drug classes are vulnerable to shortage," Dr. Paul Abramowitz, CEO of ASHP, said in a statement. "Some of the most worrying shortages involve generic sterile injectable medications, including cancer chemotherapy drugs and emergency medications stored in hospital crash carts and procedural areas."

    Last year, the American Cancer Society issued a warning that chemotherapy drugs had returned to the list of the top-five drug classes affected by shortages and warned this could have a devastating effect on patients.

    Some hospitals and clinics reported being completely out of the medications. Doctors have been forced to either ration cancer drugs or triage which patients receive the drugs first.
    STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images - PHOTO: A bottle of prescription medication is seen in an undated stock photo.

    Additionally, Abramowitz said there are ongoing national shortages for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications, which remain "an issue for clinicians and patients."

    Among them is the ADHD prescription drug Adderall. The shortage began in late 2022 initially due to a delay from a manufacturer. As of early 2024, the shortage is now demand-driven, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    "The FDA can utilize different tools during a shortage to assist manufactures with increasing supply including expediting review of a supplement to add additional supply of active ingredients or adding additional capacity," an FDA official told ABC News in a statement earlier this year. "Unfortunately, we are not able to share specific actions, as they are considered commercial confidential information. "

    Shortages of some drugs have been an ongoing problem in the U.S. for more than a decade and were recently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in March 2023. Lack of necessary medication means patients have to get delayed treatments, substitutions or sometimes no treatment at all, the report found.

    At a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this year, expert witnesses -- practitioners, researchers and pharmaceutical company executives -- said drug shortages can hurt patients financially because they may turn to alternate products that can cost more.

    MORE: Weight loss drugs including Zepbound, Wegovy in shortage, FDA says

    ASHP said it is working with the federal government to advise HHS agencies on their response to shortages and on steps the trade group believes the federal government could take to alleviate the shortage, including Congress requiring manufacturers to be more transparent about any supply chain issues and to encourage greater diversity in the supply chain.

    ASHP, however, said it had concerns about a proposal from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that would issue financial penalties for hospitals that lack the resources to stockpile medications.

    "Much work remains to be done at the federal level to fix the root causes of drug shortages," Abramowitz said. "ASHP will continue to engage with policymakers regularly as we guide efforts to draft and pass new legislation to address drug shortages and continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our members for solutions that work."

    ABC News' Kristina Abovyan and Youri Benadjaoud contributed to this report.

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