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Report finds coronavirus pandemic leading to ‘unacceptable’ shortage of US drug supplies

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A report released this week from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota said that COVID-19-related drug shortages in the United States have reached “unacceptable” levels.

“Ensuring a Resilient US Prescription Drug Supply” is the sixth report in the center’s series titled, “COVID-19: The CIDRAP Viewpoint.” 

The newest report, released Wednesday, found that 29 out of 40, or approximately 73 percent, of drug treatments for COVID-19 are experiencing shortages, including propofol, albuterol, midazolam, hydroxychloroquine, fentanyl, azithromycin and morphine, citing data from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that 45 percent, or 18 out of 40, of the drug treatments are on its official drug shortage list, according to CIDRAP. 

The report added that 67 out of 156 critical acute drugs, including diazepam, phenobarbital, lidocaine and acetaminophen, are also in short supply. 

“Drug shortages can be a matter of life and death, and some shortages mean that a life-saving drug is not available to U.S. patients at any price,” CIDRAP said in a statement announcing the report’s release

“There is an urgent need for new, more effective policy with robust transparency to solve the persistent drug shortage issues plaguing the U.S. healthcare system,” the statement added. 

Michael Osterholm, the director of CIDRAP, said in the news release, “The urgency with the drug shortage supply issue is related directly to the major increase in COVID-19 cases that we will experience in the coming months.” 

“This, in turn, will dramatically increase the need for specific COVID-19 treatment drugs, while at the same, COVID-19 is having a major impact on two of the three key drug manufacturing areas of the world, India and Italy,” he added. 

According to the report, the drug shortages have been fueled by the closure of production factories, shipping delays, shutdowns, limitations on trade and export bans amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

CIDRAP outlined several possible solutions in its report, including a national infrastructure for “analyzing, predicting, managing and preventing shortages of critical medications” and the creation of an in-depth map to measure the U.S. drug supply chain. 

The drug shortages come amid the race to approve a coronavirus vaccine for public use in the U.S. 

While experts have predicted that a vaccine may not be safe and ready for FDA approval until the end of this year or into 2021, the Trump administration has aimed to get one out sooner through its Operation Warp Speed. 

In Thursday’s final presidential debate, President Trump claimed that new rising cases across the country would soon be “gone” and that a vaccine could be available in a matter of weeks. 

“It will go away, and I say we’re rounding the turn, we are rounding the corner. It is going away,” he said of the coronavirus, a remark that his administration’s own health officials have contradicted.

Tags coronavirus covid-19 coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 treatment Donald Trump Drugs Fentanyl Food and Drug Administration Hydroxychloroquine Morphine operation warp speed University of Minnesota

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