Manage Drug Shortages via a Smartphone and Tablet Application

September 2011 : Generics - Vol.8 No. 9 - Page #19

Anyone practicing institutional pharmacy in the last two years has seen the number of drug shortages reach record highs. Such shortages drive up the costs of medications and overall health care, and contribute to delays in patient care. As a pharmacy student working in hospitals, I saw firsthand the drain on pharmacist time due to drug shortages and the resultant, negative effects on patient care. It became readily apparent that the problem was not a lack of information about shortages or potential shortages, rather the data was not available fast enough or in a format that allowed pharmacy to react to the shortage—both operationally and in terms of identifying and acquiring effective therapeutic alternatives. 

Accordingly, while the FDA and ASHP provide great resources for drug shortage information, I wanted to create a mobile application (app) that could help health care providers access that information quickly and easily. The end result, RxShortages, was developed for the iOS operating system (iPhone, iTouch, iPad) and the Android operating system using JavaScript and the Appcelerator Titanium mobile application framework. RxShortages is a free and open-source project; the source code is available at: 

The RxShortages app aggregates shortages information in real time from the FDA and ASHP and offers three different views to make finding information about drug shortages easier. The first view is an alphabetical listing of current, resolved, and unavailable drugs with a search feature. The second view—called a feed view—shows the shortages in chronological order from when they were last updated, allowing health care providers to see the latest developments on all current shortages. The third view uses crowd-sourced data to create a top list of drugs that other health care providers have searched through the app in specified time periods, such as the last day, month, or quarter. 

This last concept carries the greatest potential to deliver comprehensive and vital information. Since many drug manufacturers are not required to notify the FDA of an upcoming shortage, the FDA thus relies on health care providers to report drugs that they are having trouble procuring. By promptly reporting any shortages to the FDA or ASHP, you help support the relevancy of shortages data for everyone. A tab at the bottom of the main screen provides links to report drug shortages to the FDA and ASHP. 

*RxShortages is available in the iTunes store, Android marketplace, and at 

Mick Schroeder, PharmD, is a recent graduate of Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Currently a PGY-1 resident at Sentara Healthcare in Virginia, he is pursuing a PGY-2 residency in pharmacy informatics.


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