WCH CONNECTAugust 4, 2020

What can COVID-19 teach us about drug shortages during a global emergency?

  • August 4, 2020
  • BY Jordan Benadiba & Sarah Warr

Pill packs

During a global pandemic, countries worldwide 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. 

Mina Tadrous
Mina Tadrous

To address this developing concern, Mina Tadrous, PharmD, MS, PhD, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) and the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV), and Katie J. Suda, PharmD, MS, professor of at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Division of General Internal Medicine, 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. 

“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,” says Suda. “Although the problem of drug shortages is well known, we don’t yet know the impact of drug shortages during a global emergency.”

“It is clear that the 2019 Coronavirus disease pandemic has significantly impacted the drug supply chain,” adds 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,” explains 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. 

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