Drug Shortage

Shortage of 50% dextrose for injection

Three-dimensional ball-and-stick model of a glucose molecule, contributed to Wikimedia by Benjah-bmm27

Call it dextrose, glucose, or grape sugar, it is your body’s most important energy source. The formulation in short supply arrives in vials and preloaded into syringes for emergency use. There is only one manufacturer approved in the US, Hospira, and that company was going for the unwanted record of receipt of most FDA warning letters in a given period of time. This is rendered uber-euphemistically in the shortage report as “manufacturing delays.”

The troubled company was sold to Pfizer earlier this year, joining two companies with tarnished reputations. Quoting Ed Silverman of Pharmalot fame:

Despite a long-running series of quality-control troubles at various manufacturing plants, Hospira remains one of the largest purveyors of generic injectable medicines. These are largely sold to hospitals, and hospitals are key customers, of course, for a big drug maker [Pfizer]. Injectables accounted for 68% of $4.4 billion in revenue for Hospira last year, according to this chart.

Despite its many difficulties, Hospira has benefited from the price increases that resulted from injectable drug shortages. Those shortages are at least trending downward, so the company will no longer try to go it alone. Here is a far-from-complete summary of injectable drug shortages in my post of November 4, 2014.)