Drug shortages soar amid worsening financials

Some 180 drugs are in short supply through the first nine months of 2010, compared with 166 in all of 2009. The shortages, tracked by the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah Health Care, are "unprecedented," says manager Erin Fox.

Those in short supply tend to be commonly used: morphine for pain relief, propofol for sedation, Bactrim for infections, reports MSNBC. Sterile injectables are among the most difficult to find.

The FDA says about 40 percent of the shortages are caused by manufacturing issues, some related to drug safety. Twenty percent are the result of production delays and another 20 percent occur when drugmakers stop making the treatments. The remaining 20 percent stem from raw material shortages, increased demand, site issues and component problems.

Both the University of Utah and the FDA ascribe financial reasons for many of the shortages, as drugmakers suffer profit declines due to generics. MSNBC reports that the drugmakers it contacted either refused to comment on the shortages or confirmed only that they exist.

Not all drugmakers are so shy: Teva said last May when it exited the propofol business that the drug is hard to make and barely profitable.

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