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Drug Shortages Create Fear in the US

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US citizens are facing drug shortages, including vital cancer-fighting medicines, which has raised concerns and created fear. The FDA reports that between 2005 to 2010, drug shortages had increased from 61 important treatments to 178. These drugs include generic and brand names. The medicines in short supply include antibiotics, anesthetics, intravenous treatments and sterile injections.

FDA is Hampered
Many healthcare organizations and professionals, as well as affected patients have complained to the FDA about medicine shortages. But, the FDA is hampered because it has no influence over the decisions of private pharma firms on producing certain drugs. In fact, private companies can even discontinue the production of a particular drug without informing the FDA.

Patients are Badly Affected
Last year, the FDA was able avoid 38 drug shortages by making deals with manufacturers and by resolving their production problems. Still, a survey of more than 800 hospitals had revealed that most of them had faced drug shortages in the recent past. This led to delay in patient treatments or the administration of less effective treatment procedures.

Quality Issues are the Culprit
Experienced pharmacists say they have not seen the likes of this situation before. Surveys reveal these drug shortages adversely affect patients and even cause death. The reasons for the drug shortages are mainly quality issues. Experts fear the lack of supply will only worsen in the future as many companies have stopped making generic drugs as these make less profits. Some years ago, four or five companies used to make a similar medicine. Today, this has gone down to one or two firms.

The Solution
Healthcare advocates opine the FDA should make it mandatory for companies to issue an alert six months before they stop making a drug. This would give it time to find substitute products. Gray market racketeers are profiting from the situation as they hoard scarce drugs and sell it to hospitals at highly inflated rates. In fact, some rare drugs are sold at 1,000 times their normal price.

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