Drug shortage relief on the horizon?

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order intended to help resolve some drug shortages plaguing the medical communities.

According to the New York Times, the order will instruct the Food and Drug Administration to do three things: broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs; speed reviews of applications to begin or alter production of these drugs; and provide more information to the Justice Department about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.

Recent nationwide drug shortages have taken a toll on both human and animal doctors across the United States.

Back-orders and short supply manufacturing concerns are playing a key role in drug shortages for veterinarians as well as human physicians.

Megan Ward, manager of pharmacy services at the University of Florida Veterinary Hospitals, said that more and more she and other veterinarians are finding themselves anticipating that the first drug they reach for may be temporarily unavailable.

"Our most current drug backorder list includes ophthalmics, topicals, injectable antibiotics and fluids," Ward said. "In many recent cases these shortages are due to a manufacturing or product-related defect, which must be corrected before more product is made available. Late this past summer one of our choice anesthetics was recalled. We changed many of our anesthesia protocols in response until more was available."

The same is true of Immiticide, the only drug FDA-approved to treat heartworm disease. A manufacturing defect has caused a shortage of the drug in the United States; the manufacturer is importing limited quantities European manufactured version of the drug, but it is not FDA-approved.

In other situations, Ward said, a principle ingredient is unavailable, and the next best choice may be less than ideal. This often limits practitioners from providing the best possible care and treatment available.

"When this happens a simple therapeutic substitution may be warranted, and we have a fix," Ward said. "However, if that therapeutic substitution is unaffordable or less effective, the next best therapeutic choice may be less than ideal. For veterinarians in private practice, they may also not be able to afford to stock multiple drugs in a therapeutic class and use them before they go out of date."

Ward said the ultimate goal is to provide the best quality care for patients with the available resources. However, limited resources can hinder veterinarians’ ability to provide quality care for their patients when they need it most.

"It generates a difficult situation for pet owners and practitioners," Ward said.