With 323 medicines in short supply, U.S. drug shortages have risen to their highest level since the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists began tracking in 2001.

The organization says this milestone should energize efforts in Congress and federal agencies to address the broken market for what are often critical generic drugs.

Last week, the Biden administration issued a drug shortage plan that called on Congress to pass legislation that would reward hospitals for maintaining an adequate supply of key drugs, among other measures.


As a “first step,” Medicare yesterday proposed incentives for roughly 500 small hospitals to establish and maintain a six-month buffer stock of essential medicines. Many of the issues behind shortages are tied to low prices for generics that leave manufacturers competing on price.

“It’s been a race to the bottom. We need more transparency around quality so buyers have a reason not to chase the lowest price,” said Michael Ganio, senior director at the ASHP.

He said that drugmakers that can demonstrate safer, higher-quality manufacturing practices should earn a higher price.
Manufacturing quality concerns, in particular, have fueled shortages of chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics.