As a result of the shortages, many hospitals are scrambling to avoid endangering the lives of patients. Sometimes they are forced to delay treatment.
The number of drugs listed in short supply has tripled over the last five years. They include electrolytes for premature infants, a cystic fibrosis drug called Acetyl-cysteine and injections used in emergency rooms for certain types of cardiac arrest.
The reason for the shortages vary from recalls to trouble importing raw ingredients to spikes in demand. The Food and Drug Administration points out that fewer manufacturers are producing older, cheaper generic drugs.
More expensive brand-name drugs are rarely in short supply.