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Uncovering the Causes of Drug Shortages: What’s Behind Adderall, Ozempic and Other Meds?

by Joshua Brown
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It’s getting harder to find drugs like Adderall in the USA and experts don’t know what to do. This makes it hard for patients to get their medicine because they have to wait longer, switch between medications or go through other problems trying to get their prescription.

Recently, due to a sudden increase in demand and manufacturing issues, some medications have become harder to obtain. This is making life difficult for people relying on these drugs, like doctors and parents. A common example of this are drugs used to treat ADHD; many things have caused their shortage and it’s hard to say when it will be over.

A lack of certain medicines, especially the cheaper generic drugs, has been a problem for a while now. Companies that make these kinds of drugs don’t seem to want to help because they don’t really make much money from them. We have recently seen a new obesity drug hitting the market and this could change how people get help with weight loss. Here’s what you need to know about taking prescription drugs for weight loss.

“The Growing Drug Shortage

This year there have been a lot more drug shortages than last year. The University of Utah Drug Information Service says that in the first three months of this year, there have been 301 active national drug shortages, which is almost 50% more than the 202 from the same time period back in 2018.

Even though there are more drug shortages, patients may not feel it because doctors can usually switch to different medications, or ‘mask’ the issue according to Stephen Schondelmeyer from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy.

“Right now, there aren’t enough of certain things and they’re noticeable,” he said.

Shortages of Adderall

In the fall, there was a really bad shortage of Adderall, the medication that helps people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This problem kept getting worse and started to affect other medicines that treat this same condition. Unfortunately, a lot of extended-release doses of Adderall are still not available. But things seem to be getting better now according to a researcher from University of Utah Health.

The FDA has noticed a lack of Ozempic, a drug used to treat diabetes and for weight loss. Because some famous people have been talking about it on social media, the number of prescriptions for Ozempic has gone up a lot – to more than 1.2 million since summer 2021! The company that makes Ozempic says all kinds of doses are now available at every pharmacy across the country.

Last year, a lot of people got sickness that made it hard to breathe, so the shops where you get medicine had to make sure there wasn’t too much of certain medicines like children’s fever reducers. There was also a time when it was hard to get hold of pills called amoxicillin.

Drugs that are injected in hospitals and clinics, like IV saline and cancer treatments, are in much higher risk of running out than pills or medicines applied to the skin. This is according to a report written by Senator Gary Peters from Michigan who leads the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“Causes of Drug Shortages

There can be a lot of factors that cause shortages. A good example of this is the Adderall drug shortage. People began taking Adderall more often, because during the pandemic, doctors were allowed to prescribe it without seeing the patient first-hand. This caused prescriptions for Adderall and its generic versions to increase by 20%, according to IQVIA data.

Adderall, which is a controlled drug, often has challenges stocking enough of it when demand increases. Prices might also be high for certain drugs. Ozempic is a diabetes medication with the same active ingredient as another medication called Wegovy that helps people with weight loss. However, Wegovy can cost more than twice the amount of Ozepic for every milligram.

People want to buy the injection medicine Ozempic more than Wegovy because it is cheaper. However, Novo Nordisk spokeswoman Allison Schneider said this isn’t due to the price but because of demand and limited amounts available worldwide. Other drugs like Adderall and amoxicillin bring small profits, so companies don’t make enough or store them when there’s a shortage.

“It’s difficult to fix a problem if the supplies you need have run out, unless everyone starts making things again,” she said.

“Risking Treatment

Not having enough medicine can cause doctors to give patients medication that is not as helpful. This can lead to problems when taking the medicine and make it harder for people with diseases like cancer which need quick treatment. It also could lead to confusion at the pharmacy where you might get your medicine if they don’t have enough of your prescription to give you.

Uncovering the US Drug Shortage Crisis

It’s difficult to say when the shortages will be fixed. That’s because it’s tricky to calculate how much people need.

Mike Ganio, who works at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said that although companies can increase production by 10%, they still might not make enough.

The Senate report also said that too many supplies come from other countries, and this could lead to more shortages in the future.

Most of the ingredients used to make medicines in America come from factories in China and India. Recently, India decided to limit the export of certain drugs and ingredients so they can be sure there’s enough of their own drugs for everyone. Once shortages happen, it often takes a long time for them to go away and drug companies don’t have to tell us when this happens.

The Senate recently made a report that states nobody has complete control of the drug-making process in the US. Dr. Fox mentioned how it’s so annoying that there isn’t enough materials to make drugs and companies are not using whatever they have at their disposal. He added that everyone is blaming each other for this issue.

The Big Big News Health and Science Department has some help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is completely responsible for whatever content they make.

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