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Drug Dangers

Drug shortages could present national security risk to U.S., report says

Shortages of critical drugs could represent an ongoing national security risk to the United States, a new report said Wednesday. 

The report, helmed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, found that drug shortages across the country increased nearly 30 percent from 2021 to 2022. These shortages have been caused by a variety of factors, including supply chain issues and economic swings, the report said. 

These shortages "have left health care professionals grappling with limited resources to treat patients in need," committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said in prepared remarks at a hearing highlighting the report's findings, adding "these underlying causes not only present serious concerns about providing adequate care to patients, they also represent serious national security risks."

These risks are based on the fact that 90 to 95 percent of generic sterile injectable drugs are dependent on base materials from China and India, the report said. Peters said that this reliance on foreign drug suppliers "remains an unacceptable national security risk."

However, this extreme shortage of drugs is not a new phenomenon. The report noted that at least 15 critical care drugs have been in shortened supply for more than a decade. This includes medications used to treat a variety of ailments from cancer to asthma, the report said. 

Erin Fox, a pharmacist and professor at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy who has been tracking drug shortages for more than 20 years, told ABC News that because of the shortages, "patients and hospitals routinely cannot access the most basic and essential prescription medications."

Fox told ABC she is planning to testify at the hearing, where she "plans to describe the challenges of providing medical care in an environment where shortages are commonplace, citing studies that show adverse patient outcomes when providers are faced with shortages."