HERKIMER, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Senator Charles Schumer visited the Mohawk Valley Health System in Herkimer on Thursday, August 10 to call on Congress to address drug shortages with his four-point legislative solution.

According to the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, which tracks drug shortages, there were over 300 shortages of various drugs during the first three months of the year, which is the biggest number in nearly 10 years. The Mohawk Valley Health System has their own list, which fluctuates from 150 to 225 drugs in either critical or non-critical short supply.

According to the list, Little Falls Hospital is currently out of morphine and critically low on supplies of lidocaine, sodium bicarbonate, and epinephrine syringes. The shortage has hit cancer patients the hardest, with several crucial chemotherapy and pain medications on the list.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

Schumer pointed out three reasons for the shortages:

  • Insufficient manufacturing – American generic drug manufacturing facilities are only operating at 51 capacity, and 40 percent of all drugs have a single manufacturer. According to Schumer, that means even a minor interruption – such as a failed FDA safety check – can threaten drug availability.
  • Lack of Transparency: Neither the FDA nor the pharmaceutical industry has full visibility of the drug supply chain, nor are purchasing organizations required to report critical data, such as increasing demand. This limits the government’s ability to identify and mitigate shortages.
  • Reliance on Foreign companies: A recent study found that 90 to 95 percent of generic injectable drugs rely on starting materials from China and India, making it harder to enact safety standards.

Schumer said that while some shortages can be mitigated by prescribing a different medication or a therapeutic alternative, the replacements are not always perfect. Additionally, some drugs in short supply have no replacement option. He also unveiled a four-point plan to address the shortages:

  • Giving more transparency to drug shortages,
  • Making sure there are enough manufacturers producing enough drugs to have reserve and contingency supplies,
  • Improving production safety and quality, and
  • Incentivizing domestic manufacturing and onshoring.

“Mounting drug shortages across Central New York and nationally have become a great concern for medical providers,” Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, President & CEO of Bassett Healthcare Network said in a statement. “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.”