The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics has released a report titled “Drug Shortages: A closer look at products, suppliers and volume volatility” that examines “the magnitude of the problem, its causes and ways to prevent or resolve future shortages.” Using proprietary drug supply-chain data, the IMS Institute found that 80 percent of the drugs in short supply are generic and more than 80 percent are injectables. Many of the drugs are critical for the treatment of cancer, infection, cardiovascular disease, central nervous system conditions, and pain. The study also revealed that while a large number of suppliers are involved, more than half of the products “have only one or two suppliers. Thirteen companies have stopped supplying products on the shortages list leaving a growing number of products open to possible production disruptions by one manufacturer.”

The report includes a recommendation that the Food and Drug Administration or industry adopt an early warning system that would (i) identify those drugs at risk (i.e., low-cost, technically challenging and critical medicines); (ii) forecast long-term demands for these drugs and adjust the forecasts as the industry changes; (iii) “report month-to-month changes in the volume of drugs supplied to hospitals, clinics and retail pharmacies”; and (iv) apply predictive modeling “to anticipate shortages or supply disruptions for critically important medications at the national and regional levels.”