Drug shortages soar as Pharma financials plummet

Some 180 drugs are in short supply through the first nine months of 2010, compared with 166 in all of 2009. The shortages, tracked by the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah Health Care, are “unprecedented,” says manager Erin Fox.

Those in short supply tend to be commonly used: morphine for pain relief, propofol for sedation, Bactrim for infections.

The FDA says about 40% of the shortages are caused by manufacturing issues, some related to drug safety. 20% are the result of production delays and another 20% occur when drugmakers stop making the treatments. The remaining 20% stem from raw material shortages, increased demand, site issues and component problems, as was the case with the much publicized recent Lipitor recall.

However, both the University of Utah and the FDA ascribe financial reasons for many of the shortages, as pharmaceutical companies suffer profit declines due to generics.

While most companies refuse to comment on the reasons for the shortages Teva is not so shy.  Last May when it exited the propofol business Teva executives admitted that the drug is hard to make and barely profitable.

Which kind of blows our secret theory that they merely decided to distance themselves from Michael Jackson’s death?

Whether you work for a pharmaceutical company experiencing shortages or if you’re a patient suffering as a result, Word on Health would love to hear from you.

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