ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why Are There Drug Shortages?

Updated on May 8, 2012

Causes of Drug Shortages

Several causes of drug shortages
Several causes of drug shortages

What is a drug shortage?

Essentially, in the past few years there has been multiple shortages of medications available. This is more confined to injectable medications that are more often used in the hospital or in outpatient facilities (eg. infusion center, skilled nursing). Overall, this impact has not been noticed in the outpatient dispensing pharmacies, and currently does not appear to be a major issue. However, the concern comes into play for patients who use an injectable agent that is not necessarily mass-produced, such as chemotherapy.

Why does this happen?

There are multiple factors that come into play for why there are different drug shortages:

  • Shortage of materials to produce medications - just as there can be shortages for other things we use in life that drive up prices (eg. gas) the same can happen to the chemicals and supplies to make medications
  • Discontinuation of production for certain medications - a company may decide to stop production of medications, because quite frankly, it may not be profitable. This is especially the case in which generic injectables (eg. Lasix/furosemide [a diurectic]), are simply not profitable to mass produce. As such, the market shrinks to just a few mass-producers who due to supply and demand can still make a profit off of these cheap medications.
  • Manufacturing problems - Drugs are produced in lots, in fact, if you look at some prescriptions that come in their own packages you will see next to the expiration dates the lot # they came from. This helps manufacturers track down medications they may think there is an issue with. Similar to how there have been car recalls due to errors in machinery and function, the same can happen to medications. Sometimes things can get into the medications (eg. particles or non-refined ingredients), and this necessitates a drug recall. Where this is a greater issue is when their is only a few companies making this drug, and thus the supply could be halved overnight.

These are some of the major issues. One troubling problem has been that some companies or wholesalers buy up low drug stocks to create an artificial shortage which drives prices up for hospitals and others. This of course is an issue and persued by heavily by the FDA and other legal agencies.

So what are we doing to stop this?

Currently, many organisations are working together with the government and the FDA to help speed up production of medications and to recognize when there may be shortages to help prepare.

Currently, however, health professionals are working towards making sure that if a drug would run out, there are other agents to utilize instead. For example, there was a time when IV Ativan/lorazepam was on backorder. As such, other medications in that class were substituted as needed to help preserve that drug for certain indications.

Should you be worried?

Overall, this has been going on for years, and most patients do not notice it. This is because health care professionals and hospitals are working towards being more strict with drug usage to make sure the patients who need certain medications recieve them. Others will get drugs that are equivalent and work as well, but may not be the bread-and-butter of normal practice.

The patients who are most concern are those who receive chemotherapy for treatment. This is especially the case with drugs that again are not made as frequently. These patients are usually in contact with their physicians to ensure that steps are being made to secure a supply of medications for their treatment. If none is available, alternative treatments may have to be used. However, this is rare and fare between.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Thanks for your reply, TDAPharm. It will be interesting to learn how everything "comes out in the wash."

    • TDAPharm profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Good question! That is an issue that has been identified, and is being addressed. However, it is a matter of identifying these distributors overall to ensure proper supply of medications to the public. More oversight may allow an identification of companies and their production and any irregularities between them and distributors to the patient care centers.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Great information here that you've described in an easy-to-read manner.

      I've been following the news the last year or so on these drug shortages and have read that there is a concern that some companies may be stockpiling to create a shortage. Do you have any thoughts on this?

      Voted up and SHARED.

    • Lisa M Mottert-1 profile image

      Lisa M Mottert-1 

      6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Informative and very good:)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)