Saturday, October 01, 2011

October 1, 2011 – Drug Shortages: I’m Not Alone

According to a recent item in The Atlantic, I’m not alone in experiencing the effects of a drug shortage (the Thyrogen shortage, that’s currently shoved my radioactive-iodine treatment onto a siding).

The FDA has documented no fewer than 178 drug shortages so far this year. From the article: “The number of drug shortages has been steadily rising every year since 2006, when 56 shortages were reported. It increased to 90 in 2007, 110 in 2008, 157 in 2009, and finally to 178 in 2010, more than tripling in four years.”

There are lots of reasons for these shortages, evidently, including: “manufacturing problems, drug purity issues, and discontinuations of some older, less profitable drugs by drug companies.”

The FDA’s trying to get Big Pharma to agree to a regulation that would require them to give 6 months’ notice before discontinuing a drug, to allow the FDA time to seek new avenues of supply for patients who need it. The pharmaceutical companies are resisting this, complaining that it’s often because of oppressive FDA regulations that they can’t make a profit on their drugs in the first place.

What insufferable arrogance! Who’s the regulator here, and who’s the regulated?

Still no word from Memorial Sloan-Kettering on when they may get some Thyrogen and be able to schedule my treatment. Late August has become late September, and still no word. Now we’re into October.

Considering the extremely lucrative nature of the drug-manufacturing business, and the critical importance of some of these medications for patient health, you’d think these companies could take the small steps necessary to at least let patients know a shortage is coming.

But that would be too ethical, it seems.

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