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Episodes Combatting drug shortages

a small glass filled with prescription medication pills

Combatting drug shortages
July 26, 2022

Drug shortages continue to be a major health care issue in the U.S., with more than 200 ongoing and active shortages per year since 2018. 

"Drug shortages are not new to health care," explains Dr. Mary Gilmer, director of pharmaceutical supply and procurement for Mayo locations across the Midwest. "But, really, over the last two years with the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortages have really exposed the vulnerability of our global drug supply chain. And these drug shortages remain high, despite decades of continued and increased awareness, effort and significant resource investment in these drug shortage programs at the highest level." 

At Mayo Clinic, the Pharmacy and Theruapuetics Committee has strategies and an organized approach to managing each drug shortage that's encountered.

"We engage our staff right down to the front-line team members when we're experiencing a shortage," says Dr. Gilmer. "When we place an order for a medication, and we do not receive sufficient quantities of what we're needing to take care of our patients, that's when we start escalating it, and really coordinating around how we understand and identify shortages so that we can best proactively manage them. So that's getting everybody on board for awareness, and any changes in our electronic health system that we need — or engaging our formulary colleagues to understand what alternatives or substitutes we can use." 

In addition to work done internally, Mayo Clinic also has taken a leadership role in combating drug shortages across the U.S., including joining the End Drug Shortages Alliance. The coalition is a collaboration of health system, supply chain and industry partners seeking to prevent drug shortages by solving pharmaceutical supply challenges and increasing transparency.

Mayo was also a founding member of Civica Rx, a nonprofit generic drug company whose goal is to reduce shortages of essential medications that hospitals use. Civica Rx recently announced plans to manufacture and distribute affordable insulin. 

"We often talk about mitigating the impact of a drug shortage, but our goal is really to get further upstream and actually end them and stop them from happening,"says Dr. Eric Tichy, chair of the Division of Pharmacy Supply Solutions at Mayo Clinic. "So we do a lot of advocacy with the government and different regulatory agencies. And anytime someone says they want to help end or manage drug shortages, we're always interested in what that opportunity is."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Drs. Gilmer and Tichy discuss Mayo Clinic's work to combat drug shortages.