The U.S is currently facing one of the worst drug shortages it has ever experienced. As of today, 267 medications are considered to be in a shortage. This includes cancer medications, antibiotics, cough and cold medications, and attention deficit medications such as Adderall. Supply chain failures are partially to blame, but much of the issue ultimately stems from the FDA’s recommended production amounts, which have failed to account for the increased demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because these recommendations are enforced by the DEA, there is very little room for negotiation which leaves consumers holding the short straw if their estimates fall short of the actual amount required. For example, the FDA recommended that 38,000 kilos of Adderall should be sufficient to supply the United States for 2023. The DEA ratified this to 42,000 kilos, but both entities failed to account for the additional 6 million children who were diagnosed and prescribed Adderall during the pandemic. As a result, the FDA has had an Adderall shortage declaration in place for over 6 months, but have failed to make any structural adjustments to the pharmaceutical industry to make a correction to the regulations.
Another aspect of this shortage is the United States’ reliance on other countries to produce the raw materials needed to manufacture drugs. According to the FDA, 80% of U.S drug materials are produced in other countries. This dynamic has made the U.S pharmaceutical market incredibly susceptible to supply chain failures and has been credited as the primary cause of less regulated, generic drugs being in shortage. This fact has led to widespread security concerns about the robustness of our medical system, with some pentagon officials claiming that China’s dominance in the pharmaceutical field could allow them to bring the U.S healthcare system to a halt if they chose to stop supplying lifesaving medication. Efforts to bring the industry back to the U.S have been unsuccessful so far so it is impossible to predict what the future may hold for the pharmaceutical world.