If i told you that there was a drug shortage in US would you believe me? I’m talking about prescription drugs, folks. Well if you find that hard to believe, i wouldn’t blame you. We are one of the richest nations on the earth, the notion that we lack the basic medications to keep our populace healthy and full of life is astonishing. Unfortunately, the drug shortage is real. The shortage is nothing new, over the last decade the healthcare industry has struggled with limited amounts of proper medication for their patients. The pharmaceutical industry has not be able to keep up with the demand from the public and the healthcare industry for drugs. Mark Koba of Fortune states “In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration listed 154 drugs that were in short supply or no longer available. That figure exploded to 456 in 2012. Today there are more than 300 drugs listed in short supply by the FDA.” This is taking a tremendous toll on hospitals all across the country. Many of them are forced to come up with creative alternatives to treating their patients. The search for alternatives is not cheap, it is estimated hospital are paying $230 million over their budgets for the hopes of finding different ways to treat patients without proper prescription drugs.
How did we get to this point? There is numerous reasons for the shortage, from federal regulations slowing down manufacturing, quality problems, and discontinuations. Regulations that have been established to protect the public from the possibility of contaminated drugs or medications with dangerous side effects, are slowing the process of manufacturing down. This is one of the unintended consequences of having a heavily federal regulated industry. More of a balance between the FDA and pharmaceutical industry needed to be reached, with regards to the timeline of test to mass production. Another reason for the shortage is that the pharmaceutical industry is lacking in raw materials to produce needed medications. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) these is also a fewer pharmaceutical companies operating in the US today than every before. The GAO reports “71 percent of all generic injectable cancer drugs sold in 2008 were produced by just three manufacturers, while 91 percent of the market share of injectable nutrients and supplements was held by just three pharmaceutical firms”. This completely caught me by surprise, seeing how the US is the world’s leader when it comes to medical research and development.
How does one create a strategy to combat the problem? How does one allocate resources in an ethical manner so everyone has access to the life saving medications they need? A medical research team from Duke University have crafted an outline of rules that a healthcare policy must follow, if it seeks to allocate medication shortages to a needing public. The steps are as followed:
- 1.Transparency: the policy–and the development and implementation of the policy–must be open to everyone for review
- 2.Relevance: the policy and its rationale must be judged clinically relevant–“and those reasons should be rationally acceptable by others”
- 3.Appeals: there must be an appeals process where a person can challenge a decision
- 4.Enforcement: everyone must follow the rules, and the institution must ensure that’s the case
- 5.Fairness: no “special” person will receive exceptional consideration
Healthcare in US is making great leaps in technological advancement when it comes to creating medical devices. These advances also comes in the form of new life saving medications that scientists in the pharmaceutical industry are working diligently on. Unfortunately, these break thoughts in prescription medication are not always reaching their intended audience.