Viewpoint: The US can't continue to overlook the economic drivers of drug shortages

In recent years, it has become the norm to see shortages of drugs for cancer and other diseases —  and the problem is only getting worse, Yoram Unguru, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at The Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, wrote in an opinion piece published in STAT.

While some shortages occur because of manufacturing or quality issues, most experts argue that the primary driver for drug shortages is economic.

At a recent summit, Martin VanTrieste, who serves as the president and CEO of the nonprofit hospital-owned drug company Civica Rx, said that "all drug shortages are the result of economics, financial and management decisions."

Dr. Unguru agrees.

"We cannot continue to overlook the economic drivers that lead to shortages of older drugs costing just dollars per dose that offer cures for cancer while newer chemotherapy agents costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that may prolong life by just a few months are rarely, if ever, in short supply," Dr. Unguru wrote.

Solving the U.S. drug shortage crisis will ultimately require greater government involvement, Dr. Unguru argued.

Congress should grant federal authorities the power to create incentives for high-quality manufacturing standards, offer subsidies to drugmakers to maintain production of critical medications or assure equitable reimbursement practices, Dr. Unguru wrote.

Overall, Dr. Unguru concludes that the drug shortage crisis in the U.S. jeopardizes the health of patients, especially the lives of children with cancer.

Read the full opinion piece here.

More articles on pharmacy:
Harvard gets $100M infusion for drug research from hedge fund
Purdue Pharma CEO: Bankruptcy is 'an option' amid lawsuits
Intermountain CEO Dr. Marc Harrison: How Civica Rx will disrupt the drug industry

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