Did you know that currently if a manufacturer decides to stop making a drug, they can just stop without alerting anyone? Additionally there are no rules dictating when companies have to tell the FDA that there is an issue found in the manufacturing process.
This often leaves patients, pharmacies, and clinical providers in tight spots. Frequently, there are substitute medications available, but for some medically necessary drugs these shortages can mean the difference between life and death.
For example, over the past year we have had shortages of medically necessary drugs like dexamethasone that reduces inflammation when a breathing tube is removed and it helps reducing swelling in the brain. And there are hundreds of other prescription drugs that are currently shorted.
The American Society of Health System Pharmacists is hoping that a bill working its way through Congress will require manufacturers to notify the FDA of any discontinuance, interruption or adjustment in the manufacture of a drug that may result in a shortage. If manufacturers are required to alert the FDA of potential problems sooner or discontinuation of certain medications, then the FDA could give advance notice to other companies making the drug to ramp up.
Read more about the issue here, and take this opportunity to encourage Congress to regulate drug makers to ensure that patients always have access to the lifesaving medications they need by sending a letter to your Senator.
Lynn Eschenbacher is manager of WakeMed Raleigh Campus inpatient pharmacy and is a member of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists.