Most Americans aren’t aware that there is a serious drug shortage taking place and in many situations is creating life-threatening circumstances. Most of the drug shortages are affecting hospitals where drugs are administered through injection or IV. If you are going to the pharmacy to pick up pills, you are less likely to notice the impact of this shortage. But, if you are going to the hospital for your cancer treatment, there is a chance the medication you need may not be available.
The shortage is a result of many different factors from manufacturing difficulties, natural disasters that affect production, reductions in the supply of raw materials (of which 80% come from outside the U.S.), unexpected increases in demand, voluntary recalls, manufacturer business decisions, to FDA enforcement actions to ensure public safety and artificial shortages due to stockpiling. Most of these factors, the FDA has no control over.
More specifically, the FDA has no control over prescription drug manufacturer’s business decisions. If a manufacturer decides to stop production for whatever reason, the FDA cannot demand them to begin production again. It simply may not be profitable for the manufacturer to produce the drug. However, there is legislation in the works to at least require the manufacturers to provide formal notice so that people aren’t left to find out that the medications they need are no longer available when they attempt to re-order.
Another idea that is being thrown around is incentives. Offering drug manufacturers incentives to either continue or begin manufacturing the drugs that are being affected by this shortage. In the mean time people are left the deal with either the thought of running out or using risky alternatives (if any are even available). So, while there is hope for the drug shortage, it isn’t likely that there will be a solution very quickly.