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Drug shortages at all-time high

In 2010, 178 drug shortages were reported to the FDA. These include cancer drugs, anesthetics used in surgery, a large number of “sterile injectables” — medicines that are given intravenously — and “crash cart” drugs used in emergency treatments.

Valerie Jensen, FDA’s expert on drug shortages, said regulators are seeing a large number of new drug shortages in 2011 as well.

Jensen said the agency is especially concerned about the danger to consumers from shortages of injectable drugs, which represented more than half of the shortages reported last year to the FDA.

These are oncology drugs, drugs used during surgery and emergency treatments.

"Companies have told us that these injectable drugs are older drugs and not as profitable," she said. "They’ve told us it’s a business decision to discontinue production."

Over the last six years, the number of prescription drug shortages in the country has nearly tripled, the agency said.

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