Drug shortages prompt FDA to form task force

Hurricane Maria amplified what had been intermittent shortages of IV bags when it hit Puerto Rico.

Story highlights

  • Drug Shortages Task Force will look into persistent drug shortages and find long-term solutions
  • Experts say these shortages are hurting patients

(CNN)The US Food and Drug Administration is forming a Drug Shortages Task Force to look into the country's persistent drug shortages and find long-term solutions, according to a statement Thursday⁠ from the agency's commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

"We've seen the number of new drug shortages steadily decline since a peak in 2011," Gottlieb said. "Despite these efforts, we continue to see ongoing shortages of medically necessary products."
    Experts say these shortages aren't just causing the medical community to scramble for solutions -- they're hurting patients.
    "It's a patient safety issue," said Dr. James Augustine, chairman of the national clinical governance board for US Acute Care Solutions, a physician group that provides staffing for emergency rooms and hospitals across the country. Some patients, he said, are "scared to death for their life."
    Without their first-choice drugs for certain conditions, many doctors must make the best of what they have on hand, and these drugs may be less effective and have more side effects, Augustine said.
    Currrent shortages include opioid pain medications, certain anesthetics and various antibiotics, according to the FDA's list.
    Dr. Paul Kivela, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, described the FDA's move as "a major step toward solving the complex and severe, and persistent drug shortage issue in the United States," according to a statement Thursday. His organization had called for the creation of a task force earlier this year, when it helped draw up a letter⁠ Gottlieb received in June that was signed by more than 130 members of Congress, Kivela said.
    The organization found that nine in 10 emergency doctors who responded to a poll said they had recently dealt with shortages of critical medicines in the ER. More than 40% said that they had seen patients suffer as a result.