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Schumer Says Critical Cancer Drugs & Common Generics For Asthma, Antibiotics and More Are In Short Supply And Feds Need To Act Fast To Protect Central NY Patients And Help Doctors Across Upstate NY

With Drug Shortages Rapidly Increasing by 30%, Schumer Reveals New 4-Prong Push To Repair Upstate NY’s Drug Supply Chains And Thwart Future Crises; Says Legislation Is Coming To Once And For All Fix Urgent Problem  

Schumer: Dire Drug Shortage Could Soon Delay Treatments In Herkimer & Across Upstate NY Unless FDA Acts & Congress Passes Legislation

With nearly 300 critical drugs from cancer drugs to everyday generics needed to treat asthma and infections are in extremely short supply, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on Congress to address this issue with his new 4-point legislative solution, as well as pushed the FDA to keep working to limit the worst shortages right now and protect patients and doctors in the Mohawk Valley and across Upstate NY. Schumer detailed his legislative plan to repair the nation’s drug supply chains and thwart future crises, explaining that with drug shortages already impacting Herkimer patients, legislative action will be necessary to address systemic problems and avoid delay in treatments for patients who need them.

“Mohawk Valley hospitals and medical providers across the country are currently suffering from some of the worst drug shortages they’ve ever seen, running low on critically-needed cancer drugs, as well as common generics, drugs used to treat asthma, and antibiotics used to treat infections. With this systematic issue already impacting Upstate NY patients, I am not only calling on the FDA to act immediately and do everything in its power to mitigate this shortage, but I am also urging Congress to take action and solve this issue for good,” said Senator Schumer. “We need long term legislative solutions that will repair the nation’s drug supply chains once and for all, that way we can thwart any threat of future crises and ensure that every New Yorker has access to the medication they need.”

"By all accounts, Mohawk Valley hospitals and medical providers across Herkimer County are dealing with one of the worst drug shortages in memory. With supply issues touching everything from cancer drugs to allergy medications to antibiotics, these are shortages impacting our friends, families, and neighbors," said Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent J. Bono. "On behalf of everyone in Herkimer County, I would like to thank Senator Schumer for coming to Herkimer for the 25th consecutive year. Here in Herkimer, we support the Senator's efforts to safeguard our healthcare system, and we are grateful for his leadership on this important issue."

“We greatly appreciate Senator Schumer addressing the critical issue of drug shortages that impact the lives of patients in our community,” said Darlene Stromstad, FACHE, President and CEO of the Mohawk Valley Health System. “Our health system and our communities are grateful to the Senator for his support and strong advocacy on behalf of healthcare and Upstate NY hospitals and communities.”

“Mounting drug shortages across Central New York and nationally have become a great concern for medical providers,” says Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, President & CEO of Bassett Healthcare Network. “Our patients depend on us for vital access to treatment and medicines – especially in rural communities. We are appreciative that Senator Schumer is addressing this critical supply chain issue, advocating for the health of Central New York citizens and patients across the country.”

Schumer said that drug shortages of cancer drugs and common, generic prescription drugs are approaching record levels in across the country, including in Upstate NY. Drug shortages increased 30 percent from 2021 to 2022, and by the end of 2022, there was almost 300 critical drugs in short supply, including both hospital-based and pharmacy-based drugs. The Mohawk Valley and Central New York over the past year has experienced shortages of ADHD medicine, anesthetics used during surgery, albuterol inhalers for asthma, amoxicillin, saline and much more. The shortage in cancer drugs has hit Central New York and the Mohawk Valley particularly hard, stressing the supply of chemotherapy drugs like carboplatin, cisplatin, fluorouracil, leucovorin, and gemcitabine, at regional health networks like Mohawk Valley (“MVHS”) and Bassett Health Network (“BHN”), as well as at Upstate Medical University, the regional cancer center.

Schumer said there are core reasons for these shortages:

  • Insufficient Manufacturing: There are not enough manufacturers and supply-chain security. American generic drug manufacturing facilities are only operating at 51 percent capacity, and 40 percent of drugs have a single manufacturer supplying the market. Schumer said that even minor supply chain interruptions, failed FDA safety checks or production issues can upend entire drug markets and threaten drug availability.
  • Lack of Transparency: Neither the FDA nor industry has end-to-end visibility of the full generic drug supply chain – including raw materials, component manufacturers, finished dosages and purchasers – thereby obscuring the scope and drivers of drug shortages. Purchasing organizations are also not required to report certain critical data, such as increasing demand. This opacity limits the government’s ability to proactively identify and mitigate future drug shortages.
  • Reliance on Foreign Companies: Between 2010 and 2015, the number of generic import drug ingredient manufacturers registered with the FDA more than doubled. A recent study found that 90 – 95 percent of generic sterile injectable drugs in the U.S. rely on key starting materials from China and India. Further, it is harder for the United States to demand high-quality safety standards in overseas manufacturing plants.

Schumer’s 4-point legislative plan will craft legislation based on the following goals:

  • First, giving more transparency and insight into drug shortages. The administration, doctors, hospitals and patients need to know when a shortage is coming, when demand is outpacing supply, where companies are sourcing their raw materials from, when there are safety issues and more. More information means more opportunities to fix vulnerabilities before they become problems.
  • Second, making sure there are enough manufacturers producing drugs at enough volume to have reserve and contingency supplies.
  • Third, improving production safety and quality. Numerous shortages are caused by safety and quality control problems at manufacturing plants, and improving safety and quality standards would help avoid those problems in the first place.
  • Fourth, incentivizing domestic manufacturing and onshoring. It creates a series of vulnerabilities and problems when the country’s generic drug market is so reliant on foreign actors, and bringing that supply chain back to the United States will reduce shortages and create good-paying new jobs for Americans.

Schumer said that U.S Drug shortages hit near-record highs earlier this year. According to the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, which tracks drug supply issues, there were 301 active shortages in the U.S during the first three months of 2023 – the biggest total in nearly a decade. Like many healthcare providers across the country, Schumer said that doctors and pharmacists in Central NY and across Upstate NY are feeling the effects of these drug shortages and finding it harder to shield patients from the impact. These shortages are not limited to any one class of medication, and more and more classes of drugs are being affected by the day.

In Herkimer County, both MVHS and Little Falls Hospital of Bassett Health Network have faced significant shortages in recent months and years. Mohawk Valley Health System has a list that fluctuates from of 150 to 225 drugs in critical or non-critical short supply, which has spiked from 15 to 30 drugs just a decade ago, which includes chemotherapy drugs like carboplatin and cisplatin, respiratory drugs like albuterol, pain medications like butorphanol and fentanyl, antibiotics like clindamycin, and allergy medications like methylprednisolone (solumedrol). Little Falls Hospital is dealing with similar shortages. Currently, Little Falls Hospital is struggling to secure supplies of lidocaine, sodium bicarbonate, and epinephrine syringes. Other hospitals across Central New York and the Mohawk Valley have seen shortages in docetaxel, amoxicillin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and roxanol syringes.

These shortages have caused a host of problems for the region’s healthcare community. Schumer said that while some drug shortages can be mitigated by prescribing a different medication form or a therapeutic alternative, that process is both challenging and time consuming and not always the perfect replacement for the drug that is in short supply. Additionally, some drugs that are not available have no other replacement option. This drug shortage problem is creating additional work on Upstate NY’s limited pharmacy resources, requiring pharmacists to be active in identifying (and in many cases forecasting) potential shortages and pivoting to determine suitable therapeutic equivalents and alternative options for patients.