Hospitals Warn Shortage Of Asthma Drug Might Worsen

One of the most commonly used asthma treatments has been scarce due to the nation’s supply chain issues. But the already-flaring shortage might get worse as major manufacturing plants for the medication have shut down.

Albuterol is incorporated in inhalers and nebulizers for the treatment of patients with breathing problems and health issues such as asthma and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The medication helps patients with respiratory conditions such as emphysema and bronchitis to prevent bronchospasm, which is the tightening of the muscles that line the airways in the lung, causing difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing.

Supply of the drug has run low since last summer, and the Food and Drug Administration added it to its shortage list in October, but with one of its major suppliers out of operation, hospitals warn that the situation is threatening to get worse. With the end of February came news that Akorn Pharmaceuticals shut down after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections.

The company’s plants in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois have reportedly been closed, leaving one domestic albuterol supplier – Nephron Pharmaceuticals. The company started shipping orders the previous week, but the drug has been on backorder for weeks, so they have not gone far in fulfilling the orders they have so far.

It is therefore not certain that the company can handle all the orders coming in for the medication, which is one of the top 10 most prescribed medications in the U.S., according to a study from 2018. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America puts the number of U.S. residents with asthma at 25 million. This means that one in every 13 Americans is asthmatic.

According to a CBS News report, the scarcity of albuterol has hospitals scrambling to save doses of albuterol for patients whose need for it is more critical. Hospitals are also reportedly trying to come up with alternatives by compounding the products themselves or sourcing the compounded products from third-party companies.

However, doctors fear that these solutions will not work in the long term as they say that a continuous shortage poses a danger to health and lives.

Amid the threats of the shortage getting worse, there is hope that the situation might get better soon as production contingency plans are in the works to ensure albuterol is in full supply later this year.