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Pediatric Drug and Other Shortages

“In the age of supply chain shortages, it is imperative that the US pursue resilience and promote public policies to better protect the health of its youngest members,” Viewpoint authors write after recounting shortages of analgesics, antibiotics, and formula. “Without a conscious effort to enact public policies that emphasize resilience, the US will continue to have shortages of pediatric pharmaceuticals and other key products, especially because children are an often overlooked population when it comes to drug policies. It is unconscionable that children are in pain, going hungry, or at risk of harm or dying from easily preventable infections because the federal government and pharmaceutical companies are not investing in protecting their health.”

The authors examine potential factors underlying the shortages, including the structure of today’s supply chains: “The economics of the pharmaceutical industry do not naturally lend themselves to resilient supply chains. In general, lower-priced drugs are more likely to experience shortages, in part because the margin is not sufficiently profitable to sustain manufacturing. Affordability can push manufacturing offshore: Chinese pharmaceutical firms supply 97% of the antibiotics, 95% of ibuprofen, and 70% of acetaminophen for the US market. The global supply chains can and often are disrupted by geopolitics, natural disasters, and pandemics. But simply moving manufacturing back to the US will not solve the problem: limited profitability can disincentivize multiple manufacturers, undercut interest in building capacity, and result in a system that is undersized to respond to spikes in demand.”

Source: JAMA