There have been numerous factors causing the increasing drug shortages of the last few years. Generics don’t pay as much to the pharmaceutical companies, and there’ve been problems producing them to the needed quality at the cost. The FDA has tight regulations on drug manufacturing, requiring a (minimum) 3 month approval process for the quantity of all drugs manufactured, preventing supply from changing to meet demand. Problems like those of the recent meningitis outbreak also crop up, leading to drug shortages.
A new study looked at the effects of drug shortages—specifically when teens with what should be an easily treatable form of cancer have to switch drugs due to drug shortages. While the number of deaths was the same, relapses more than doubled.
The study, while not rigorous, still highlights the growing problem of drug shortages in this country. The war on drugs may be one of the bigger impediments, since it’s the impetus behind the FDA regulating quantity of drugs manufactured (when really, they should be focused on quality—preventing problems like the meningitis outbreak, or glass in the generic lipitor produced abroad).
And while saying big pharma isn’t interested in generics is easy, the truth is companies are generally granted exclusive rights to them these days—so while the price may come down, it’s not like there’s competition there to produce what are often very in demand drugs.
While many politicians are shaking their fists at the many drug shortages, none are addressing the basic, and obvious, causes.
How do you think drug shortages should be addressed?