Health and Healthcare

These Are the Drugs America Is Running Short On

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Private healthcare sure does seem to be working well in America, doesn’t it? With skyrocketing healthcare costs with diminishing returns, a lower life expectancy, unofficial waitlists, and absurdly high mortality rates for routing procedures, it seems like we’re overpaying for a product that wants to make life harder and more painful at every turn. And nowhere is that more apparent than in drug shortages.

Feel like your prescription drugs are too expensive, even when you can get your hands on them? Welcome to healthcare run for a profit. Pharmaceutical companies are only incentivized to provide medicine if they are able to make money off of it, no matter how important it is for people to survive. When a drug doesn’t make enough money, a company will stop producing it, creating shortages. Here are 12 of the drugs America is running short on.

Why Are We Covering This?

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A nurse in a hospital.

The American healthcare system doesn’t operate independently. An interconnected network of lawmakers, lobbyists, cable news, insurance companies, and other industries make unbelievable amounts of money from the way it operates today and is highly incentivized to lay the blame for any problem at the feet of immigrants, the poor, and anybody on the other side of the political spectrum. Essentially, anywhere else except the true culprit: private healthcare companies.

Any meaningful change has to come from everyday people learning the truth behind how bad the system truly is and pressing their elected officials for reform.

The Background on Drug Shortages

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Drugs in a pharmacy.

The onset of COVID-19 brought many supply chain issues including for food, cleaning products, and toilet paper. Another weak area of the supply chain that was exposed was the pharmaceutical industry for raw drug materials that originate in China. As of April 2024, there are 323 drugs in shortage in the United States. These drugs have been in shortage from just a couple of months to a couple of years.

Besides manufacturing plants being shut down for not complying with FDA standards, another large reason for the shortages is money-related. Because a majority of these 323 drugs are generic brands, that are significantly less expensive than name-brand drugs, there is little incentive for drug companies to invest in them. Because insurance companies often won’t approve coverage for brand name drugs when a cheaper, equally effective generic formula exists, using and prescribing generic drugs saves money throughout the entire U.S. healthcare system, except for the drug companies.

These drug shortages are especially concerning for cancer patients, as some common drugs like Methotrexate, which is a common chemotherapy drug, and Pulvicto, a drug to treat advanced prostate cancer, can severely impact survival chances for the patients needing regular dosages of these drugs. A study recently showed that every monthly delay in cancer treatment can raise the risk of death for that patient by up to 10% per month.

Another frustrating sector of drug shortage that is critical to some diabetic and metabolic disorder patients is Semaglutide, the generic injection for Ozempic and Wegovy. A recent approval for this drug to assist in weight-loss treatment led to a new trend in Hollywood that has captured the obsession of dieters everywhere. Because of this recent high demand for the drug, many patients who were already using it for metabolic disorders like diabetes are finding it extremely difficult to obtain this critical drug.

Many generic forms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) drugs like Adderall are also in extreme shortage, which has left many ADHD patients with no way to deal with the oftentimes debilitating disability, which can negatively affect their relationships, education, income potential, and even hygiene practices.

Some of the most commonly used drugs currently in shortage belong to different categories across the medication spectrum. The drug shortages are affecting more than half a million patients nationwide, most of whom are ages 65–85. Although specific statistics do not exist that show which drugs are impacting the largest amounts of patients, here is a list that can give an idea of just how widespread this issue is affecting the medical community.

#1 Amphetamine Extended-Release Oral Presentations

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A pharmacist at work.
  •  Brand Name: Adderall XR
  •  Category: Psychiatry
  •  Uses: Tablet used to treat symptoms of ADHD 
  •  Shortage Began: March, 2024

Reason for shortage: Camber discontinued production, Lannett (NYSE:LCINQ) did not provide a reason, Mallinckrodt (NYSE:MNK) refused to provide a reason, Par has discontinued production, Shire is no longer supplying this drug to Prasco which is discontinuing production as a result. Sandoz has discontinued production, Sun Pharma has discontinued production, and Teva did not provide a reason for its shortage. 

There are a handful of companies that still manufacture the drug, some of which only produce brand-name versions and refuse to produce generic versions.

#2 Loxapine Tablets

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Inside a pharmacy.
  •  Brand Name: Clozapine
  •  Category: Psychiatry
  •  Use: Treatment for symptoms of Schizophrenia
  •  Shortage Began: June, 2022

Reason for shortage: Mylan Institutional discontinued the drug in 2021, and Teva discontinued production of the drug. There are only a couple of companies that continue to produce this drug.

#3 Lorazepam Tablets

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Pharmacists at work.
  • Brand Name: Ativan
  • Category: Psychiatry
  • Use: Lorazepam is used to stop seizures, cause drowsiness before surgery, and decrease anxiety. It can also be used as a sedative. 
  • Shortage Began: April, 2024

Reason for shortage: Aurobindo refuses to provide availability information, Bausch Health (NYSE:BHC) did not provide a reason for the shortage, Leading says it has a shortage due to increased demand, Major did not provide a reason for the shortage, and Teva did not provide a reason for its drug shortage. There are no other companies that are producing this drug as of the writing of this article.

#4 Semaglutide

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A pharmacist at work.
  • Brand Name: Ozempic and Wegovy
  • Category: Weight-loss/Endocrine
  • Uses: Injection is used for weight loss and to manage metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
  • Shortage Began: April, 2024

Reason for shortage: Novo Nordisk discontinued Ozempic in the .25 mg and .5 mg dose strengths. Novo Nordisk also has Wegovy on shortage due to increased demand. There are no other companies that are manufacturing this drug.

#5 Bupivacaine with Epinephrine Injection

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A Pfizer building.
  • Brand Name: Marcaine
  • Category: Anesthesia/ Pain Management
  • Uses: Epidural injection to induce numbness during labor or surgery. Can also be used as a local anesthetic during dental procedures. 
  • Shortage Began: April, 2024

Reason for shortage: Fresenius Kabi said it has a shortage due to increased demand, and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) said its shortage is due to manufacturing delays. There are no other companies that manufacture this drug.

#6 2% Lidocaine Hydrochloride (Xylocaine) Jelly

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Medicine and money go together like peanut butter and jelly in America.
  • Brand Name: Solarcaine Aloe Extra
  • Category: Anesthesia/Pain Management
  • Use: Local anesthetic used to numb an area of the body during surgery, needle punctures, or insertion of catheters and breathing tubes. It can also be given as an epidural injection during labor. It is used a lot in pediatric procedures. 
  • Shortage Since: September 2023

Reason for shortage: There were only two companies producing this drug, and Akorn shut down production in February of 2023, leaving only Sagent as the lone producer.  

#7 Hepatitis B Vaccine (Recombinant)

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A woman picking up her medicine.
  •  Brand Name: Energix-B
  •  Category: Vaccination
  •  Uses: Used to prevent all subtypes of the Hepatitis B Virus
  •  Shortage Began: March, 2022

Reason for shortage: Merck (NYSE:MRK) discontinued producing this drug, leaving GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) making only brand-name versions. There are no generics available for this drug.

#8 Fentanyl Citrate Injection

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A nurse administering drugs.
  • Brand Name: Sublimaze
  • Category: Pain Management
  • Uses: Used to relieve severe pain during and after surgery. It is also used in conjunction with other medications to help anesthetic be more effective. 
  • Shortage Began: April, 2024

Reason for shortage: Akorn shut down production in February of 2023, and Fresenius Kabi has a shortage due to manufacturing delays. Hikma has a shortage due to supply and demand issues. Pfizer also still produces the drug.

#9 Amoxicillin Oral Presentations

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An image of too many pills.
  • Brand Name: Amoxicot, Amoxil, Moxatag
  • Category: Antibiotic
  • Uses: The drug is used to treat bacterial infections. It is a penicillin-based antibiotic. 
  • Shortage Began: March 2024

Reason for shortage: Aurobindo refuses to provide availability information and Hikma is allocating this drug only to current customers per planned contract demand. Sandoz did not provide a reason for its shortage and Teva did not provide a reason for its shortage.

#10 Testosterone 2% Topical Gel

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An image of a doctor’s office.
  • Brand Name: Fortesta
  • Category: Endocrine/ Metabolic 
  • Uses: The drug is used to treat low testosterone levels in adult males.
  • Shortage Began: October, 2023

Reason for Shortage: Par has discontinued its manufacturing of the drug, leaving only Teva and Endo as the remaining manufacturers. 

#11 Dextrose 50%

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A doctor preparing some drugs.
  • Brand Name: Glucagon
  • Category: Endocrinology/Metabolism
  • Uses:  This drug is used to replenish fluids and treat low blood sugar levels.
  • Shortage Started: April 2024

Reason for shortage: Amphastar (NASDAQ:AMPH) has this drug in shortage due to increased demand. Pfizer also has a shortage due to manufacturing delays. There are no other companies that manufacture this drug.

#12 Insulin Asparte Injection

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A woman treating her diabetes.
  • Brand Name: Novolog
  • Category: Endocrinology/Metabolism
  • Uses: Insulin Asparte is a fast-acting hormone injected subcutaneously to reduce high blood sugar. It is regularly used in the daily management of Type 1 Diabetes and sometimes Type 2 Diabetes. 
  • Shortage Started: January, 2022

Reason for shortage: Novo Nordisk did not provide a reason for its drug shortage, however, it has the drug on backorder and plans to release more incrementally. Novo Nordisk is the only manufacturer, no other companies are producing this drug.

#13 Albuterol Inhalation Solution

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A woman using her inhaler.
  • Brand Name: Ventolin HFA, Proventil, Proair HFA (inhaler)
  • Category: Pulmonary
  • Uses: The drug is a bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles in the airways and increases airflow to the lungs. It is a common treatment for asthma attacks. 
  • Shortage Started: February, 2024

Reason for shortage: Akorn Pharmaceuticals declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in February 2024, severely limiting the supply of this drug. Mylan, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Ritedose, and Sun Pharma continue to make it.

#14 Sertraline Oral Tablets

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Some need their pills every day to survive.
  • Brand Name: Zoloft
  • Category: Psychiatric
  • Uses: Sertraline is an antidepressant and is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is used in treating moderate depression, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
  • Shortage Started: March, 2022

Reasons for shortage: Aurobindo refuses to provide availability information for this drug, and Greenstone discontinued production in October 2021. Accord, Cipla USA, Exelan Pharmaceuticals, Lupin, and Pfizer continue to manufacture their own versions.

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