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Lisa Jarvis

How to Solve America’s Drug Shortage Problem

A conversation with Erin Fox of the University of Utah, who has been tracking medication scarcity for 20 years.

Hope they have what you need.

Hope they have what you need.

Photographer: George Frey/Getty Images

Drug shortages in the US are forcing physicians and the public to scramble for access to vital medicines. While the problem isn’t new, the number of products in scarce supply is nearing an all-time high — and could get worse as generic drug makers pare back on the breadth of products they manufacture or even shut down. The issue has gotten serious enough to be deemed a national security threat, and President Joe Biden’s administration has formed a team to try to address the issue.

To understand the root cause of these supply shortages and what’s needed to fix them, I spoke with Erin Fox, associate chief pharmacy officer at the University of Utah Health, who since 2001 has devoted her career to tracking shortages. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.