Biden Scrambles as Drug Shortages Hit All-Time High

Biden Scrambles as Drug Shortages Hit All-Time High

The White House is scrambling to respond to a record-high shortage of critical prescription drugs, with President Joe Biden asking Congress to do something about it.

According to experts on drug shortages, the dwindling supply of crucial medications is at an “all-time high.”

In a memo last week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alarm bells were raised about potential supply chain issues and other pharmaceutical “vulnerabilities.”

“As of January 2024, there were 123 drugs in shortage, and of these products, about a quarter were first reported in shortage prior to 2020, with the oldest dating back to 2012,” the memo noted.

The memo added, “It has been estimated that there were approximately five shortages of medical devices annually from 2010 to 2019, with that number increasing fourfold in the first half of 2020 because of demand increases and supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

One solution to the shortages of medicine proposed by the federal government is to reward hospitals for keeping an adequate supply stocked.

“Market participants throughout the supply chain lack appropriate incentives to adopt practices that foster diversification, redundancy, and investment in newer technology and mature quality systems that would reduce the impact of supply disruptions,” HHS said.

A proposed program could offer “financial incentives” to hospitals for doing their part in stocking up on medicine. That same program could be punitive for facilities that do not comply, the HHS memo stated.

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HHS suggested the creation of a scorecard system for hospitals that tracks their supplies of crucial drugs.

The proposed system would also offer assistance to smaller hospitals that do not have the resources to buy months of medicine in bulk.

According to HHS, the issue of drug shortages has persisted for decades but has become a more prominent issue in recent years.

Many drugs that are commonly prescribed in the U.S. are made internationally.

According to the National Institutes of Health, most drugs Americans take are made in either China or India.

There are also issues with name-brand manufacturers competing with popular and cheaper generic drugs — leading to a disincentive for more medications to be manufactured in many cases.

But there are ultimately many reasons why important medications can be hard to come by, according to HHS.

Michael Ganio, the senior director of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, told Axios the complex issue is coming to a head.

“It’s been a race to the bottom,” Ganio said.

In regard to a solution, he concluded, “We need more transparency around quality, so that buyers have a reason to not chase the lowest price.”

On Thursday, ASHP CEO Paul Abramowitz wrote in a blog post, “During the first quarter of 2024, ASHP and our partner, the University of Utah Drug Information Service, tracked 323 active shortages. This is an all-time high, surpassing the previous record of 320 shortages in 2014.”


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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