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Albuterol is in Short Supply Due to Akorn’s Closure

— March 24, 2023

Asthma, ADHD, and flu medications are all in short supply, experts warn.

A shortage of albuterol, a commonly prescribed asthma drug, has worsened in the United States after one of the last significant manufacturers shut down operations. Akorn Pharmaceuticals, one of the major suppliers of albuterol, ceased operations as part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, leaving only one major domestic company that can supply the drug to hospitals and pharmacies. The drug has been on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) shortage list for months, and hospitals are already preparing for a shortage, monitoring their supplies of albuterol and preparing for more emergency room visits from patients who may not be able to get the inhaler that helps them breathe.

Albuterol is a bronchodilator that opens the airways in the lungs, making breathing easier. It is used to treat asthma and conditions like Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which surged earlier in the year. It is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and its shortage has left patients scrambling for alternatives.

The shortage of albuterol is not the only drug affected by supply chain disruptions. Albuterol is one of many medicines experiencing scarcity because of supply chain issues. Individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who require the prescription Adderall have also seen shortages, as have those who need the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. Patients whose health relies on these medications may experience stress due to their lack. In order to lessen the impact of service delays, medical professionals encourage patients to prepare ahead of time and research viable alternatives to their current course of treatment.

Albuterol is in Short Supply Due to Akorn's Closure
Photo by Sahej Brar on Unsplash

The closure of Akorn Pharmaceuticals has left the U.S. heavily reliant on foreign countries, including China and India, for pharmaceutical ingredients and drugs. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for domestic supply chains, and the shortage of albuterol is yet another reminder of the fragility of these supply chains.

If a drug is in short supply, the FDA can address the shortage, including extending the expiration date on existing supply, expediting new supply lines, and finding foreign-made alternatives. However, the situation is challenging, with only one major domestic company supplying albuterol.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology advises patients on handling a possible shortage. Their advice includes making sure not to overuse an inhaler, checking with doctors for alternative medications, and, if necessary, using expired inhalers that may still be partially effective. To help patients cope with potential shortages of allergy drugs, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) has released guidelines. Patients are encouraged by the ACAAI to maintain an adequate supply of their prescription drugs, maintain open lines of communication with their healthcare practitioner, and consider all available treatment choices. The group also suggests that individuals see their physician or pharmacist if they have any questions or concerns about the availability of specific medications.

In conclusion, the shortage of albuterol has worsened in the U.S. after the closure of one of the last major manufacturers. Hospitals are preparing for a deficit, and patients are advised to be cautious and consult their doctors for alternative medications. The shortage of albuterol, along with other drugs affected by supply chain disruptions, highlights the need for resilient domestic supply chains in the pharmaceutical industry.


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