As of Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration reported 184 drug shortages nationwide. The Association of Health-System Pharmacists put the figure higher, tracking a scarcity of 210 drugs.
U.S. drug shortages may be caused by a host of issues, including manufacturing and quality problems and delays and discontinuations, along with a regulatory system seen by many healthcare providers as more reactive than proactive in making fixes.
It's a long-standing problem worsened by supply chain issues and huge demands during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many drugs languishing on the shortage lists for months or years.
There's more at the link.
The European Commission (EC) has begun stockpiling drugs and organising joint procurement of pharmaceutical supplies following a Europe-wide medicines shortage.
A surge in demand for drugs across the European Union has pushed the European Medicines Agency to register shortages across drugs including penicillin and paracetamol.
In response, the EC has started stockpiling drugs, obliging manufacturers to guarantee supplies, and organising joint procurements. Regulatory reform is also in the pipeline.
. . .
Greece banned the export of drugs earlier this month, after pharmaceutical companies were found to be importing drugs into the country at low prices before exporting them again with considerable mark-ups.
France has banned the sale of online paracetamol ... to ensure the availability of stock in shops.
The UK has enacted multiple Serious Shortage Protocols, allowing pharmacies to substitute prescriptions of drugs in high demand and low supply with alternatives under less pressure.
Again, more at the link.
A couple of weeks ago, while picking up a prescription for my latest medical misadventure, I asked the pharmacists what their recent experience has been. They reported routine shortages of up to 150 medications, with some causing delays of one to two weeks in filling prescriptions - long enough to pose a serious health risk to people who really need their medications. That's affected me personally on two occasions so far, although fortunately I've had reserves to cover the gap between prescribing and filling the prescription.
I've mentioned on several occasions in these pages that if you're reliant on prescription medications, it's a very smart move to build up reserve supplies of them for precisely this eventuality. I've gotten my wife and myself to the point that we have 180 days (6 months) of reserves for every essential prescription medication we take. It's not easy to do that legally, but if you have a sympathetic doctor who's willing to write a prescription for an extended supply, and your pharmacist is willing to accept payment in full, in cash, rather than bill it to a medical insurer (which obviously can't be expected to pay for such reserves), it can be done. If those issues get in the way, there are alternatives. It may not be legal, but I know a lot of people buy their medications outside the US, either by traveling to Mexico or ordering them from India or other countries. The latter runs the risk of having them intercepted and confiscated by US customs authorities, but you pays your money and you takes your choice.
Another useful solution is to keep a basic supply of common antibiotics in reserve. Obviously, if you don't know whether or not you're allergic to any of them, don't stock them: but if you've taken them before and know your body won't react badly to them, I think you'd be silly not to have an emergency stash. Many common antibiotics like amoxicillin, azithromycin (the so-called Z-Pac), bactrim (sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim), cephalexin, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline and penicillin are available in the form of animal medications, manufactured in pill form to human standards of hygiene and purity, and can be purchased without a prescription, in person or online. A surprising number of people take advantage of this loophole. Again I stress, you can't just take them unless you know what you're doing, what your medical issue is, and what the correct antibiotic and dosage is to treat it: but if you know all that, there's no reason not to have the necessary supplies on hand. In many parts of the Third World you have no choice but to do so, because there's no doctor or nurse or clinic available for scores or hundreds of miles. That's where I learned about such things.
Forewarned is forearmed.