"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." -- President Ronald Reagan
Drug Shortages Persist in U.S., Harming Care
Here's the key: The drug shortage crisis is almost exclusively occurring among the medications where the government exerts the most control, not among the drugs that you buy at the corner drug store.
See for yourself: Look at the FDA's Current Drug Shortages Index. Of the 100 drugs listed, 83 are injectables -- open the page do your own word search for "injection" -- and the majority of the rest are still tightly-regulated hospital-administered drugs.
So why is this? That's easy. Manufacturer knows that customers are on the other end ready to pay for their Zocor or Zithromax at the corner drug store. But the hospital drugs -- life-saving antibiotics and chemotherapies among them -- are far more mired by price and other controls.
The New York Times stumbles upon the truth but still doesn't seem to quite grasp it:
Federal drug officials trace much of the drug shortage crisis to delays at plants that make sterile injectable drugs, which account for about 80 percent of the scarce medicines. Nearly a third of the industry’s manufacturing capacity is not running because of plant closings or shutdowns to fix serious quality issues. Other shortages have been caused by supply disruptions of the raw ingredients used to make the drugs, or by manufacturers exiting the market.Catch that? A third of the manufacturing capacity is not being used and yet we have shortages. Plants are closing. Investors are taking their capital elsewhere. These are the hallmarks of price controls. Still the Washington-knows-best crowd believes we suffer from a lack of government intrusion.
Want to solve the drug shortage in six months? Remove the government's price controls and de-fang the FDA*.
*Spare me the misguided argument that we need super-powered FDA to save us from bad drugs. The tainted methylprednisolone recently linked to 33 deaths, for example, was FDA-approved. That sure helped. In fact, every single drug the FDA has ever pulled off the market for harming patients was first approved by the FDA.
And far more important than what is seen is what is not seen. No one tracks the deaths that result from the estimated half million patients who cannot get life-saving medications because of these government-created shortages. I guarantee it's more than 33, probably by several orders of magnitude.
As my dad used to say: That's your government working for you.