What Can COVID-19 Teach Us About Drug Shortages During a Global Emergency?

By: Taylor Andres

During a global pandemic, countries world-wide run the risk of drug shortages due to supply chain disruption. The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to this issue, as many regions struggle to adapt to evolving logistical changes resulting from this global emergency.

“The frequency, persistence and duration of drug shortages has increased dramatically over the last decade, leading to supply disruptions of thousands of drugs every year, and outcomes like worsening illness, increased hospitalization and premature death for patients” said Katie J. Suda, Pharm.D., M.S., professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Division of General Internal Medicine. “Although the problem of drug shortages is well known, we don’t yet know the impact of drug shortages during a global emergency.”

To address this developing concern, Dr. Suda and Mina Tadrous, Pharm.D., M.S., Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto and scientist at Women’s College Hospital, will be leading an international collaboration with an award from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, to determine the effect of COVID-19 on drug supply chain and shortages, as well as the effectiveness of country-level drug shortage policy.

“It is clear that the 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly impacted the drug supply chain,” said Dr. Suda. “Assessing drug shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic with real-time data from more than 70 countries will inform health policy locally and globally.”

Several countries around the world, including the U.S. and Canada, have successfully implemented various strategies to minimize drug shortages. Comparing the drug supply chain in different countries, each with their own policies, can reveal policy effectiveness and inform future policy-making decisions.

“The complexity and scope of this issue requires us to apply a comprehensive and collaborative approach that incorporates global insights and comparisons. Our team aims to develop an international consortium which will provide us with the opportunity to develop a common approach to drug shortages and global insights,” explained Tadrous. “Our research will help to inform risk mitigation strategies going forward with application for policy, formulary development, procedure and pricing.”

The team’s research will help inform the response to the over-arching drug shortage problem even after the COVID-19 pandemic. By making the findings publicly available through open-access journals, editorials, podcasts, and op-eds, their research will inform risk mitigation strategy to develop policy, formulary development, procurement and drug pricing.

For further information on the study please contact: Taylor Andres, communications specialist, UPMC, or Jordan Benadiba, communications specialist, Women’s College Hospital.