CHICAGO — Responding to ongoing national drug shortages that threaten patient care and safety, physicians gathered at the Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted policy declaring drug shortages an urgent public health crisis. The new declaration strengthens existing AMA policy outlining the physician prescription for a comprehensive solution to ongoing drug shortages.

Many of the drugs currently in shortage are everyday products required for patient care in all medical settings, such as sterile intravenous products containing saline or other fluids. Shortages of these basic products, and their containers, increased following hurricane damage to production facilities in Puerto Rico, leaving the health care system scrambling for options that were either limited or risky.

In response to hazards that pose a threat to the resilience of drug production, the AMA will urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security to examine drug shortages as a national security initiative. This would result in drug manufacturing sites being designated as critical infrastructure with vital importance to the nation’s public health.

“Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, which means being able to obtain the right drugs at the right time,” said AMA Board Member William E. Kobler, M.D. “The fact that drug shortages worsened when major hurricanes struck drug production facilities on Puerto Rico highlights the need to evaluate and plan for hazards that pose a threat to critical infrastructure for manufacturing pharmaceutical and medical products.”

Managing risk to enhance the security and resilience of drug manufacturing sites needs to be a shared priority for the industry and government. However, many manufacturers are unwilling to share production locations for drugs and other medical products, even though information shared with officials at Health and Human Services and Homeland Security is protected by law from public disclosure and used only in the context of preparedness planning and response.

To facilitate industry and government collaboration in preparing for disasters and determining contingency plans to mitigate drug shortages, the AMA calls for greater manufacturer transparency regarding production location and problems than may lead to a drug shortage. Given uncertainty regarding these sites as alternative sources for drugs in short supply, the AMA also calls for more information on the quality of outsourcing compounding facilities.

The AMA’s newly enhanced policy on drug shortages supports the recommendations of the 2017 drug shortage roundtable convened by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. The AMA will continue to work in a collaborative fashion with other stakeholders to urgently implement these recommendations.

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Robert J. Mills

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the premier national organization providing timely, essential resources to empower physicians, residents and medical students to succeed at every phase of their medical lives. Physicians have entrusted the AMA to advance the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health on behalf of patients for more than 170 years.