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Drug shortages are affecting children in the NICU

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Our State of Opportunity project focuses on kids and what it will take to get them ahead. At the most basic level, that means ensuring children are healthy. But as Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra reports, nationwide drug shortages could threaten even that most basic task.

We called every neonatal intensive care unit in Michigan, and all but one got back us. Each one has experienced or is experiencing a wide variety of drug shortages in the NICU.

Erin Fox is the director of drug information at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. Her group has been tracking national drug shortages since 2001 for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). She says the reason for the shortage is pretty complicated.

"There’s no one person, no one company, no one reason we can point the finger at and blame," says Fox. Instead, she gives three reasons.

Reason #1: Supply chain. Only a few companies make these generic drugs. "If only two companies make a product and one has a problem, that’s almost always a shortage," explains Fox.  

Reason #2: Generic drug companies run lean. Fox says because generic drug companies run very lean, they don’t have a backup plan if one of their manufacturing lines goes down.

Reason #3: Quality. Some of the factories and plants are having quality issues, so the FDA shuts them down until they are in compliance, which leads to more drug shortages.

To hear more about the drug shortages and how they're impacting children in Michigan, click here to read our report on the State of Opportunity website.