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Reported November 9, 2012

Drug Shortage Dilemma: Prevention -- Research Summary

USAGE OF EXPIRED DRUGS: When paramedics ran out of a critical drug used to treat irregular heartbeats, the Bend Fire Department in Central Oregon resorted to using expired medications. Medications are only guaranteed to work as intended until their expiration date. When stored properly, most expired drugs won’t be harmful to patients but will become less effective with time, according to medical professionals and according to the Associated Press, Oregon health officials began allowing ambulances to carry expired drugs, and southern Nevada has extended the expiration dates for drugs in short supply. Arizona has stopped penalizing ambulance crews for running out of mandated medications.

THE PROGRESS: While there are still drug shortages in affect, the United States government and the FDA has begun to play an active role in trying to help the drug shortage problem. New acts signed into law by Barack Obama will speed up the review process of new drugs that could be used in the place of others not currently available. The act will also increase the communication between the drug manufacturing companies and the FDA so that the FDA is ready to help these companies avoid shortages. Furthermore, the FDA has begun to import drugs from abroad that were not yet available in the United States. With these continued efforts it is hoped that the drug shortages will begin to lower. (Source:

PRESCRIPTION USER FEE ACT: The Prescription User Fee Act was first passed in 1992 and has been renewed several times and was renewed most recently this year in the hopes that it would help to alleviate the drug shortage problem in the United States. The act allows the Food and Drug Administration to collect fees from companies that produce particular drugs and biological products in the hopes that it will speed up reviews of new drugs and therapies. In 2012 the act was renewed for another five years and an early warning system for possible drug shortages was also added to the legislation. Under the early warning system, manufacturing companies will have to notify the FDA at least six months before discontinuing a drug or if there are any foreseeable disruptions in the manufacturing process that might make a particular drug be in short supply. Hopefully with warning the FDA will be able to prevent a drug shortage by either helping the company rectify the issue or finding another source of the drug. (Source:

For more Information on drug shortages go to the ASHP website or the FDA website at


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