CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An ongoing shortage of a medicine commonly used to treat people with breathing problems, including asthma and RSV, is expected to get worse.
The liquid form of Albuterol has been in short supply since last fall. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been tracking the drug and put it on their shortage list in October 2022.
Albuterol can be taken in several forms, but it's the aerosolized solution used in a nebulizer in hospital and in homes. Generic drug manufacturer Akorn Pharmaceuticals filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month. The company reportedly closed all of its U.S. facilities.
This leaves Nephron Pharmaceuticals, based in South Carolina, as one of the only remaining primary manufacturers of liquid albuterol.
"We definitely have an issue because we’ve had to purchase from alternative sources and we’re watching the shortage very closely," said Christina Schwarz with Driscoll Children's Hospital, "The drug goes on what’s called allocation or restriction. There’s only a small amount that’s available, so we purchase as much as we can get when it’s available."
The future of the drug is in limbo as doctors scramble to find it. However, they're forced to turn to alternatives for patients that need it.
Without the larger Akorn product, some doctors say they had to squeeze out Albuterol contents from smaller packages.
For patients admitted to the hospital, or infants unable to use an inhaler, one alternative medication to albuterol used commonly, but less often, is called levalbuterol.
Schwarz said, "We were made aware of the shortage quite some time ago. So we've actually been planning in advance. I think if the shortage gets to a point where we completely run out of resources, we could see an even bigger issue."
People who use inhalers at home are urged not to panic as the FDA says it's monitoring the severity of the shortage. However, if this continues, more hospitals will see the worst of the shortage first as many patients who need it, require the medication frequently.
Health experts say if you are struggling to fill your prescription that include Albuterol, you should speak with you doctor about finding alternatives that best fit your condition.