Drug Shortages Spreading in U.S., Endangering Cancer, Heart Attack, Leukemia Patients

Tuesday, May 03, 2011
American hospitals and healthcare practitioners are running short of important medications, depriving patients of potentially lifesaving therapies.
The shortage of drugs is considered “unprecedented,” and threatens the well-being of those dealing with cancer, heart attacks, accidents and other serious conditions.
Last year, 211 medications became scarce—a record. This number is triple of what it was in 2006. Among the medications affected are some mainstays of emergency care, such as morphine, norepinephrine and electrolytes. Another drug, cytarabine, is an important treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, the use of which can make the difference between life and death.
With levels of medication insufficient, some hospitals have begun rationing, postponing surgeries and resorting to alternative treatments that may be less effective.
“Consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry has left only a few manufacturers for many older, less profitable products, meaning that when raw material runs short, equipment breaks down or government regulators crack down, the snags can quickly spiral into shortages,” explains Rob Stein of The Washington Post in describing the root of the problem.
Drug companies complain about shortages of raw materials from abroad and claim that increased Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations relating to safety inspections have caused some suppliers to withdraw. FDA officials dispute this explanation.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Shortages of Key Drugs Endanger Patients (by Rob Stein, Washington Post)


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