Solving the Drug Shortage Problem
Millions rely on prescription drugs as they attempt to increase their comfort, better their health, or even cling to life. The importance of prescription drugs cannot be overstated, and shortages are devastating. To make matters worse, more than half of the drugs on the shortage list are critical in nature, meaning there is no substitute. While trends are improving, there are still significant hurdles that must be overcome in order to improve this dire situation.
According to the FDA, drug shortages have increased almost 300% since 2005. This seems like an incredible amount, but reports have shown active shortages are down over 14% from 2011 to 2012, meaning the situation is improving. The two most common classes of drugs affected are anesthetics and oncologicals, with the latter creating life and death situations for those battling cancer. The decline in shortages is thanks to President Obama who issued an executive order calling on drug-makers to report possible pending shortages to the FDA in a more timely fashion.
The root of the problem really centers on basic business fundamentals and anyone with an elementary understanding of economics can easily identify the issues at hand. The main problem is we are reliant on very few companies to produce extremely important drugs. If one of these companies has a manufacturing or quality issue (as determined by the FDA), and production is limited or halted as a result, shortages will soon follow. While safety and quality concerns account for half of all shortages, there are other issues including increased demand, and a limited supply of raw materials that are also to blame.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring safety and maintaining high quality standards. As a result, they are often forced to take action and limit or halt production of prescription drugs at certain facilities due to unsafe working conditions, metallic particle shards in drugs, and inadequate oversight. While it is quite easy to point fingers at the FDA as reports have shown they are responsible for shutting down 30% of manufacturing, the truth is they are actually doing a great job keeping the American public safe while also working to solve shortage problems.
Drug shortages over time must be improved, especially considering the average age of Americans is increasing and more medications are being prescribed to combat health conditions. Increased production of anesthetic and oncological drugs in clean facilities is the answer, and creating a competitive and profitable environment where these drug companies can operate efficiently should be the goal. We should never be reliant upon one company to produce important prescription drugs, and competition in this marketplace should be emphasized as it will absolutely lead to increased supply, lower prices, and better working conditions.