Background: Shortages of drugs and biologics pose a significant public health threat, delaying, and in some cases even denying, critically needed care for patients. Drug shortages may also lead health care providers (HCPs) to rely on alternative drug products, which may be less effective or associated with higher risks than the drug in shortage.
Program background: Preventing drug shortages is a top priority for FDA. Before its current system, updating drug shortages information was hand coded on a webpage. Now, these shortages are input into a SharePoint database and when published, this data is pushed to populate the drug shortages web page, Application Programming Interface (API) and mobile app – improving efficiency and speed-to-market of information. All drugs are categorized into different classes based on chemical structure. FDA’s drug shortages database is updated almost daily to ensure HCPs and patients have the latest and most accurate information.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans use smartphones and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world. Smartphones are used for more than personal communication –users are turning to these mobile devices as they navigate online to support a wide range of life events. Last year, 62% of smartphone owners used their phones to access information about a health condition. By developing a smartphone application—the first ever at FDA–the Agency can now instantaneously publish drug shortage information formerly posted only online. The Agency developed FDA Drug Shortages to improve access to critical information about drug availability, as part of the efforts outlined in the Strategic Plan for Preventing and Mitigating Drug Shortages.
Evaluation Methods and Results: FDA Drug Shortages allows users to search or browse by a drug’s generic name or active ingredient, and browse by therapeutic category. The app can also be used to report a suspected drug shortage to the FDA. The new mobile app offers easier and faster access to important drug shortage information. The app is available for free download via iTunes (for Apple devices) and the Google Play store (for Android devices) by searching “FDA Drug Shortages.” Since the March 2015 launch, there have been more than 15,000 downloads. A future release will allow users to receive notifications on their smartphone or tablet when they opt-in to specific therapeutic categories.
Conclusions: The Drug Shortages mobile app puts drug shortage information into the hands of HCPs in an easy-to-navigate format that is the current platform of choice by many end-users.
Implications for research and/or practice: By making this mobile app available to HCPs and pharmacists, FDA has advanced real-time dissemination of key health care data that will mitigate patient risk and improve access to safe and effective drug products.