Monday, February 01, 2016

HEALTH - Drug Shortages

"Drug shortages force U.S. doctors into ‘unethical corner’" PBS NewsHour 1/29/2016


SUMMARY:  Shortages of some prescription drugs are forcing doctors to make difficult decisions, in some cases choosing one patient over another, or sharing a dose between multiple patients.  Hari Sreenivasan learns more about the rationing from Sheri Fink of The New York Times.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Now; how shortages of some prescription drugs are forcing doctors to make difficult, often ethically fraught decisions, in some cases, choosing one patient over another to receive a much-needed drug, or splitting a single dose between two, even three patients.

For a look at what’s behind the rationing, how doctors and their patients are coping, and what might be done to correct the problem, we turn to Sheri Fink of The New York Times, who has been reporting on the story. In addition to being a reporter, she is also a medical doctor.

Dr. Fink, what’s interesting is, you’re talking about some of the best hospitals in the country that are going through this, not a small, faraway hospital where you might expect that there would be a shortage.  This is kind of — paint us a picture of how widespread this issue is.

SHERI FINK, The New York Times:  The shortages are affecting all types of hospitals, clinics, broad range of medical specialties.  It has touched — in recent years, this problem has touched just about everywhere in America.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, why is it happening?  Is it specific types of drugs?  Is it specific companies?

SHERI FINK:  It has to do with, some of the drugs often are made by only one manufacturer.  So, if something goes wrong in a quality sense, for example, and they have to shut down production, that could leave the market not having enough.

It could be that there’s not an economic incentive for a lot of drug companies to get into this.  It could be that manufacturing chains that — in the factories are running all the time, and if one goes down, it can affect lots of different drugs.

So there are economic reasons, there are regulatory reasons.  There are all sorts of reasons.  And these shortages are becoming a fact of life.  They have increased.  In recent years, the number of new shortages increased.  New federal law requiring manufacturers to tell the FDA if they see something like this on the horizon have decreased the number of new shortages, but the number of existing shortages is quite high.

"Economic incentive" is code for greed.

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