Article: Shortage of anti-infective drugs needs government attention

February 16, 2012

Anti-infective drug shortages pose significant problems for clinicians and are a rapidly evolving public-health emergency that may require government oversight, according to an article published online January 19 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Anti-infective drug shortages pose significant problems for clinicians and are a rapidly evolving public-health emergency that may require government oversight, according to an article published online January 19 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The number of infectious disease drug shortages rose from 6 in 2005 to 17 in 2010, reports Milena M. Griffith, PharmD, lead author, and colleagues. Anti-infective drugs represented 13% of the 193 currently unavailable medications as of February 2011. The impact of these shortages is probably realized in delays to effective therapy, suboptimal therapeutic selections, and incorrect substitutions.

Anti-infective drugs frequently represent irreplaceable life-saving treatments, particularly for hospitalized patients because there are some drugs for which it is hard to find an alternative. Anti-infective shortages are becoming more crucial in infectious diseases because more organisms are developing resistance to commonly prescribed drugs. This comes at a time when the number of new anti-infective drugs is declining.

Although 4 new molecular anti-infective entities became available in 2005, 2006, and 2007, that number dropped to 1 in 2008, with 2 in 2009, and 1 in 2010, the researchers report.

Enhanced oversight by governmental agencies may be necessary to identify and correct shortages of these life-saving anti-infectives. Bills such as the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act could provide FDA with the appropriate authority to minimize the impact of drug shortages.