Could America’s Next Drug Crisis be a Critical Drug Shortage?

Jimmy MagahernApril 11, 2020
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Could America’s next drug crisis be a critical drug shortage? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently reports 104 drugs in short supply – from the sodium chloride infusion used for hospital patients with fluid loss to the injectable dextrose used to treat low blood sugar. The spread of the coronavirus in China may worsen this situation, as 85 percent of drugs sold in the U.S. use some component from China.

Few companies are stepping up to fill the void. “It’s not profitable to make those drugs anymore,” says Andrew Stasiak, head of quality for Medivant Health, which recently built an $8 million, 33,000-square-foot plant in Chandler to manufacture generics. “When these sort of legacy drugs are around for so long, they come off patent and can then go generic. But once the generic market becomes flooded, it drives down demand, so companies stop making them and then they go into short supply.”

Medivant has discovered a path to profitability, taking advantage of loosened FDA regulations to fast-track lower-margin drugs and automation to reduce overhead. Stasiak can only reveal one of about 20 drugs it’s targeting: lidocaine, a local anesthetic used in dentistry. There are many more, including several on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, that the company is considering. Some crucial drugs on the current shortage list:

Vincristine Sulfate
Use:
Treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer
Brand (Vincasar): $25 for 1-ml vial
Generic: $8

Risperidone
Use:
Treating irritability in autistic children and in bipolar disorder treatment
Brand (Risperdal): $438 for 30 1-ml tablets
Generic: $4

Oxytocin
Use:
Inducing labor in childbirth and stopping postpartum bleeding
Brand (Pitocin): $357 for 10 ml vial
Generic: $10

Epinephrine
Use:
A lifesaving reversal agent for allergic reactions
Brand (EpiPen): $484 for two
Generic: $250 for two

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