Drug Shortages Intolerable
By PAM BERNS
According to an editorial in the New York Times by Annie Dranginis, skyrocketing costs of some lifesaving drugs that are not available are created by a system that no longer works and needs addressing by Congress immediately. Many drugs are suddenly not available to hospitals, and doctors have been caught unprepared for this terrible situation.
Currently, drugs have patents that prevent any other drug companies from manufacturing the drugs. Unfortunately, this system has created a monster for patients who rely on these drugs—many drugs are in short supply because of manufacturing problems, among many reasons. One of these many drugs is Doxil, which is a cancer drug used by thousands of cancer patients including some who are in 30 clinical trials. The disruption in these trials can disrupt the science that can lead to cures.
Currently 7,000 patients rely on this Doxil, but the manufacturer is not making the drug, but has an exclusive extended patent on the drug until 2014, preventing other companies from manufacturing the drug here in the United States. Desperate patients who have counted on the drug have turned to foreign countries for the drug, but the prices have gone through the roof because of the shortage. Physicians have tried their best to locate many drugs that are now in short supply.
This outrageous situation must be addressed. If companies have protection because of patents, they must be held responsible to locate supplies of the drugs they hold patents on and offer supplies of the drug manufactured in other countries at fair market value to hospitals in the U.S.—or give notice of 2 years of their decision to halt manufactuing and give up their patents. The drug companies have a critical responsibility here. We cannot continue to support a system that can result in the deaths of patients. This is intolerable.
Published: December 24, 2011