Drug shortages in the
According to a May 1, 2011, article in The Washington Post, Rob Stein reports that 211 medications became scarce in 2010.
These drug shortages are especially difficult to comprehend noting the former largesse of the
“Consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry has left only a few manufacturers for many older, less profitable products, meaning that when raw material runs short, equipment breaks down or government regulators crack down, the snags can quickly spiral into shortages.” And pharmaceutical companies are now relying on other countries to produce the raw materials for medicines—which may come from
Allen J. Vaida, executive director of the non-profit Institute for Safe Medicine Practices, said, “It just reached a point where the number of shortages was slowly going up and up, and now we have a national crisis with this huge shortage of critical medications.” The scarcities may be affecting hospital emergency rooms’ abilities to keep people alive, not to mention affecting the care of patients in oncology wards and intensive care units throughout the
Not a temporary rice or milk shortage—where consumers may be able to find substitutes for needed staples—this is medicine. Many of the shortages are of older, cheaper generic medications, often those that are less profitable so that many firms have stopped producing them, reducing the number of sources for them. Most of the shortages involve “sterile injectable” medications that are complicated to manufacture and which often incur manufacturing problems in the process.
While federal regulators have been trying to help ease shortages allowing emergency imports from overseas and permitting firms to resume production more quickly,a manager of the Drug Information Service at the
The shortage situation has also generated concern in Congress. Senate bill S. 296, the “Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act” was introduced in February, co-sponsored by Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA), that would require companies to notify the FDA in advance when they anticipate a shortage in the production of a certain drug. While this is a good effort, the horse is already out of the barn. And while the legislation, if passed, may help to prevent further deterioration of the current situation, it won’t give us back our formerly healthy manufacturing capabilities. Again, it appears to be one more case of no one minding the company store.