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Mayo Clinic joins End Drug Shortage Alliance amid medical supply chain issues

With 120 medications on the FDA's shortages list, Mayo Clinic joined a coalition of doctors, manufacturers, distributors and other medical supply chain experts to try to come up with a solution.

Mayo Clinic
Despite the turbulence of another pandemic year, Mayo Clinic reported record-high revenues in 2021.
Joe Ahlquist / Rochester Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — About 120 medications are currently in shortage, according to data released by the Food and Drug Administration’s.

As the United States increasingly sees a prescription drug shortage, especially for injectable medications and anesthetics, healthcare providers as well as other industry stakeholders have had to find a way to address these drug shortages, which often stem from an unknown cause.

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“There’s a handful of things that contribute to shortages that are known, but when you look at the surveys that are done — ‘what is the most common cause?’ — the most common is unknown (cause),” said Eric Tichy, a division chair of pharmacy supply solutions at Mayo Clinic. “It’s hard to solve a problem that you don’t know the details about.”

On June 29, the Mayo Clinic joined the End Drug Shortages Alliance (EDSA), which is a coalition started in 2021 that consists of health care providers, manufacturers, group purchasing organizations, distributors and other industry stakeholders. The mission of the EDSA is to solve “pharmaceutical supply challenges by increasing transparency,” according to the EDSA’s website .

One of the biggest factors in the Mayo Clinic’s decision to join the EDSA is the medication supply chain, Tichy said. According to Tichy, any breakdowns in the supply chain can lead to a drug shortage and there is no single entity that can solve the issue by itself.

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“As big as Mayo Clinic is, we can’t solve this issue on our own,” Tichy said. “Why we are excited about this initiative (is) because it wasn’t just hospitals getting together. We’re manufacturers, hospitals, distributors (and) patient advocacy groups, and I think that we can help advance policies by working together and that we can really get to the crux of the problem.”

Some of the EDSA’s objectives are instituting an early alert system for drug shortages, identifying and prioritizing the urgency of necessity for certain medications and working with medication manufacturers to give the EDSA advanced notice when supply of medications will be reduced, according to the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Drug shortages have been a problem for decades, according to research published in U.S. Pharmacist , however, concerns around these shortages were exacerbated during the pandemic; factors that increased global drug shortages around the globe during the pandemic were factory closures, altered import and export rates and limited access to raw materials.

“We don’t know what’s coming and then all of the sudden, you go from having (a medication) to not having it at all,” Tichy said. “We would like to have more transparency so we have different measures to conserve the products and get new supplies before we run out.”

Drug shortages can affect consumers by causing delays in medical procedures if the medications and anesthetics needed to perform them aren’t accessible. Additionally, sometimes people will have to switch from using generics to a more expensive brand-name alternative or shop around at different locations to try to find a particular medication, Tichy said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requested the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assemble experts and form a committee to examine the cause of medication shortages and create recommendations to address the issue. The committee formed was the Committee on Security of America’s Medical Product Supply Chain.

This committee issued a report in March 2022 that included a framework for improving the resilience of medical product supply chains. This framework focuses on how “awareness, mitigation, preparedness, and response measures … provide successive layers of protection against supply disruptions and medical product shortages.”

The goal of this framework was to better prepare medical supply chain stakeholders in the United States for adapting and recovering from disruptions to the supply chain.

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Aside from the recommendations provided in the March 2022 report, more organizations like the Mayo Clinic have been joining the EDSA recently, some of which are Amring Pharmaceuticals Inc., OrbitalRX and Zydus Pharmaceuticals.

“It takes a little bit of time for momentum to build behind the movement, and when the alliance formed, it was more as an idea and now we’re building a lot of momentum and getting a lot of people signed up,” Vichy said. “If we can’t get traction now, we’re never going to solve this problem.”

Bella Carpentier is a journalism and political science student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN-TC). She is currently the managing editor of the student-run paper at UMN-TC, the Minnesota Daily. While reporting for the Minnesota Daily, she covered student activism and issues affecting the university's student body. Working for the Post Bulletin, Bella hopes to build community connections and advance her reporting skills. Readers can reach Bella at bcarpentier@postbulletin.com.
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