Drug Shortages Getting Worse

March 27, 2013

Pills PackageA number of drugs are no longer available, and more are taken off the market regularly.

Why? There’s a number of problems. The FDA over-regulates drug production, requiring strict scheduling in advance—this prevents supply and demand manufacturing, and can delay it for months. Generics aren’t as valuable to produce, so many companies are no longer offering them. And of course, the recent sanitation violations of compounding pharmacies have lead to many being closed down, on top of the recalls for problems like black mold.

Pharmacists are doing their best to help patients, but there’s a limit. As the FDA sorts out state licensed compounding pharmacies, many people are going to experience more shortages on their medications.

One of the problems with shortages is sizing: individual use, and specific doses become unavailable, complicating things. For instance, in Arizona, a dentist tried to use a multi-use vial of painkiller (single use having been affected by the drug shortages), and ended up causing a small outbreak of MRSA. (It could have been worse, like Hep C or AIDS).

As the problem of drug shortages gets worse, pharmaceutical companies may experience dramatic new regulations in the US. Any solution like that will be both good and bad—the US is traditionally more innovative, but the trade off is a high price. Changing our structure won’t go smoothly, but then, more and more pharmaceutical innovation is being done by small companies outside the US—so maybe we need a little shake up!

Have you been affected by the drug shortages?

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