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VERIFY: The FDA is tracking 100+ drug shortages, are they pandemic-related?

Last year, the FDA warned there could be drug shortages as the supply chain was disrupted, but is the pandemic still causing the shortages we're seeing now?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At the start of the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration signaled a drug shortage could be on the way as the supply chain slowed or got cut off altogether.

The FDA drug shortage database shows dozens of prescriptions still in short supply, but is the pandemic the culprit for what we are seeing right now?

A WCNC Charlotte viewer recently reached out to ask about a specific shortage she has been dealing with for months:

Due to the pandemic I have been taking Nefazodone for 30 years for an anxiety disorder and since September I have not been able to get it. It only has one manufacturer and I have not been able to find a replacement. Is this shortage being caused by the pandemic. If so when will the supply be back in place. Are other drugs being affected by the same thing?

THE QUESTION

Is the pandemic causing the Nefazodone shortage? Is the pandemic causing the other drug shortages reported by the FDA?

THE ANSWER

No, Nefazodone is not in short supply due to the pandemic, and experts say pandemic-related drug shortages have largely let up.

According to Teva Pharmaceuticals, the sole manufacturer of Nefazodone, the pandemic is not behind the material shortages impacting the ability to make the product.

A company spokesperson issued the following statement:

"Nefazodone is currently unavailable. In the interest of patients who may be impacted, Teva alerted the US FDA – and our customers, including pharmacies and wholesalers – in the summer of 2020, about a potential shortage. This is due to a shortage of the raw material needed to manufacture the product and we are working diligently to determine when the product will return to the market. We are encouraging patients who reach our customer service group to seek alternative treatment until we are able to provide an update."

According to the FDA drug shortage database, there are more than a hundred drugs currently in shortage. The agency would not confirm how many shortages were directly related to the pandemic, but Michael Ganio, the Senior Director of Pharmacy Practice and Quality for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, says the current shortages are really just proof of ongoing supply concerns that predate the pandemic.

"Early in the pandemic, we had problems with some of the medications used in intensive care units with patients, particularly on ventilators," Ganio said. "We're not seeing anything that has persisted throughout the pandemic."

Ganio said many of the drugs have been in shortage for two to three years, with some dating back 20 years.

"One of the silver linings to the COVID pandemic has been more emphasis on the supply chain," Ganio said. "In March, the CARES Act actually included some provisions to address drug shortages. So, we'd like to see more redundancy in our manufacturing... There should be action plans readily available for when something breaks down."

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