Where Are The Drugs? Hospitals Face Shortages On Needed Medications

Republicans claim that health care reform is dangerous to patients due to a potential for “rationing care.”  But we’re already in an era of health care rationing, with hospitals no longer having a large enough supply of numerous life saving drugs to be able to safely and effectively treat patients.

Via the Washington Post:

A record 211 medications became scarce in 2010 — triple the number in 2006 — and at least 89 new shortages have been recorded through the end of March, putting the nation on track for far more scarcities.

The paucities are forcing some medical centers to ration drugs — including one urgently needed by leukemia patients — postpone surgeries and other care, and scramble for substitutes, often resorting to alternatives that may be less effective, have more side effects and boost the risk for overdoses and other sometimes-fatal errors.

“It’s a crisis,” said Erin R. Fox, manager of the drug information service at the University of Utah, who monitors drug shortages for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. “Patients are at risk.”

One reason for the shortage in the drugs, according to the report?  Pharmaceutical companies, who have been busy buying up and consolidating manufacturers and making only higher profit margin drugs to increase their bottom line are now running short of the drugs they didn’t see as potential financial cash cows.

The desire to make profit more than make drugs had already become evident in the crisis companies are facing now that their patents are beginning to expire, allowing cheaper generic versions to be created — an effort some companies have gone to great length to try and block.  Rather than spending profits on research and development for new drugs, they simply buy more patents, and spend more money wooing doctors into prescribing their labels or running ads to convince consumers that they need a particular brand name medication.  Instead of making drugs, they make profits, and pour those profits back into making more profits.

Meanwhile, sick patients, like those with leukemia, are being turned away from hospitals that cannot give drugs to new patients, reserving them instead for those who have already started their treatments.

A number of hospitals said they have to ration supply, meaning some patients won’t get the doses they need. It also means they have to turn new patients away.

Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha said, “At one point last week we were completely out of enough cytarabine for any new patients. We had enough to finish the current patients we had in the hospital but no new ones.”

Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore said it only had a two-week supply. “We are really worried if we get a new patient with AML — that will be very hard to keep up with.”

Some hospitals said the shortage forces them to reserve whatever cytarabine they have for their current patients.

Dr. Jeff Hord, a hematologist-oncologist at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, said it is treating three or four patients for AML, and its supply of cytarabine is set aside for them.

National health care would ration medical services?  We already have rationed health services — it’s just that right now insurers and pharmaceutical companies are reaping huge profits while the sick are being rejected for treatment.

photo from wikimedia commons


Mary Hale
Mary Hale5 years ago

Drug companies are only suppose to have higher prices on new drugs for I think 7 years so can make back the money costing them for making the drug. Then it is suppose to go down, at the end of that time.Some times I think the doctor just listens to the sales person, takes the samples to give out, and not read all the side effects, like some of them causes osteoporosis, therefore if their patient has osteoporosis, they shouldn't be given the drug. A lot of doctors that work for hospitals, have offices on hospital ground, have to see too many patients in a day, some don't even have time for lunch.If their patients go into the hospital they do not get to see them there, a PA does the rounds calls the doctor and there you go.They don't have time to do anything but patients in and out of the office, listen to a detail man, take the sample and there you go.Unless you are rich and can afford a up town doctor that has his own practice you are stuck in this and so is he. There should be a limit on how many patients a day they can push on these doctors. My heart goes out to them, they work so very hard. Hospitals have been taken over with businessmen and they are there for a big profit, not like it use to be when churches ran their own hospitals. Nurses are short handed and more work pushed on them, so they go home at night thinking what could I have done different to take time to give a kind word here or there or hold the hand of someone scared. It has taken the caring out of the pro

Morgan Getham
Morgan Getham6 years ago

Gee. What this says is that companies won't make drugs that they can't make money on. DUH! NO, and they're not GOING to, either. If a company can manufacture and distribute a drug at a reasonable profit after it is no longer under patent protection, you can be relatively certain that some company will be doing it. That's what drug companies are in business for.

Tamara D.
Tamara Dreier6 years ago

Leukemia and other serious illnesses aside, more people need to understand they do NOT need a drug for every little ailment they have. Therefore, one answer to knocking BigPharma down a peg is to educate the general public on more natural means and methods for improving their health (nutrition, exercise, natural medicine, preventive care, etc.). Now THAT would certainly cut into BigPharma's profits!

Doug D.
Doug D6 years ago

Another good argument for a single-payer system....

Ron G.
Ron G6 years ago

Disclaimer from the start:
This is my experience and opinions only based solely on truth as I have found it personally. I feel the Pharmaceutical industry, which could be doing great things, is predominately a marketing business entity. They spin a better product than they produce, and like the Oil Industry want to control the World. How many have asked like I "Why do I take this drug when the side effects are far more harmful possibly than the reason I take them in the first place"? My point-Yes, why? I have made the personal choice to quit taking prescription drugs in favor of other choices. Cheaper, safer, and seemingly just as effective if not more so. Not to say that I also refuse to allow the Pharmaceutical Industry to hold me or my health "hostage" for the sake of their bottom line. By doing just that, they forced me to open my eyes to the obvious. I will not pay them for unsafe products. I would sit in a Hospital and watch statin drug commercials on the Hospital TV. I watch Doctors given "free" samples to give to their patients to start them for later prescription purchases. We pay for those commercials and free samples and will pay much more if they get their way. The scare, like a junkie, is that we feel we must have them to get or remain "healthy". I have taken my own advice to my children. I have said NO to Drugs. I am not looking for followers to my opinions for justification. I only say that you should think it out and ask yourself "Do I really need these"?

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

US health care is NOT a health care system- it is keep people sick, on Pharma drugs and make insurance companies wealthy system.

Paul Diamond
Paul Diamond6 years ago

The 1st HMO in this country was founded in the '30s by a group of socialist doctors in Seattle, WA. It is still operating efficiently and successfully on the original socialist model.
Where the HMO system began to fail is when people tried to run HMOs for profit.
Also the high cost of medical treatment is the result of insurance companies paying whatever they are billed. If the insurance companies would declare enmass that they won't pay unreasonable charges for treatment, equipment or drugs the costs of healthcare would plummet.
If the law would be changed so that consumers would have to approve charges. If you hire a plumber to fix a leak you don't have to pay until the leak is stopped and the water is flowing again.
Not so w/ drs. We should expect if we go to the dr that our ailment will be cured or, at the very least, our symptoms will be relieved. Not so. When go to a dr he will be paid about $200 or more for spending 15 minutes and maybe effecting a successful treatment. Or maybe not they will still be paid. That is not right.

Sound Mind
Ronald E6 years ago

Why am I skeptical about this?

Robert H.
Robert H6 years ago

past member,
Give me a break. Health care costs have been increasing at a double digit pace for ten years. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

Past Member
Ralph W6 years ago

you people are nuts the right had nothing to do with this stupid healthcare. It was solely the left and Bumma who want healthcare as the foreign countries have and especially the death panels to kill off senior citizens.