(NewsNation) — A common asthma drug is in short supply after one of the last major manufacturers shut down operations.
Albuterol is used to treat asthma, along with conditions like Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which surged earlier in the year. The drug is one of the most commonly prescribed in the U.S. and it’s been on the FDA’s shortage list for months.
Akorn Pharmaceuticals, which was one of the major suppliers of albuterol, shut down operations at the end of February as part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. The company had previously been found to have manufacturing violations at its Illinois and New Jersey factories.
The company stopped shipping albuterol before it shut down, and the drug has been on the FDA’s shortage list for months.
If a drug is in short supply, the FDA has the authority to take measures to address the shortage, including extending the expiration date on existing supply, expediting new supply lines and finding foreign-made alternatives.
With Akorn shut down, there is only one major domestic company that can supply albuterol to hospitals and pharmacies. The U.S. relies heavily on foreign countries, including China and India, for pharmaceutical ingredients and drugs, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for domestic supply chains.
Albuterol hasn’t been the only drug affected by supply chain disruptions. The ADHD drug Adderall and anti-viral medication Tamiflu have also been in short supply, leaving patients scrambling for options.
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.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is advising patients on how to handle 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 which may still be partially effective.