The heated debate over the effectiveness of America’s health care system ramped up recently when a new study published in Academic Emergency Medicine revealed extreme shortages of some emergency room drugs critical to patient care, according to American Thinker.
While many drugs used in emergency rooms have generic alternatives that hospitals can still get their hands on, there are several life-saving medications with no generic counterparts available.
Using data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which receives drug shortage reports from the public American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ site, the study determined there were nearly 1,800 drug shortages between 2001 and 2014, around 34% of which were commonly used in emergency rooms.
Further, more than half of those drugs were considered life-saving medications, and 10% of them had no corresponding generic pharmaceutical.
The most common shortage drugs are used to treat infectious diseases, to relieve pain, and to treat those who have been poisoned.
Jesse Pines, director of the office for clinical practice innovation at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the study’s senior author, is worried most about the future of this problem.
“There are many ways to mitigate drug shortages, but there’s no magic bullet to solve them,” said Pines. “This could and potentially will get worse.”
While pharmaceutical companies have reported a “business decision,” as the reason for 2.1% of shortages, over 46% were given no justification whatsoever.
In conjunction, the study found that the primary reasons for drug shortages were due to 25.6% manufacturing delays, 14.9% supply and demand, and 4.4% to the availability of raw materials.
One of the most disconcerting suspicions for the lack of these drugs is the low profit margins most of them offer to pharmaceutical manufacturers.
But with America’s share of the worldwide pharmaceutical market in 2014 amounting to around $365 million, it doesn’t seem like they have much to lose in creating more of these medications.
In an attempt to increase the approval of new generic alternatives, The Connecticut Mirror reports that U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., will introduce legislation meant to expedite the process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving generic prescription drugs.
The bill, titled the “Fast Generics Act,” is being supported by a number of other legislators. It is also aimed at decreasing the astronomic rise in both health care and prescription drug prices by limiting control of monopolies in the industry.
“The astronomic rise in health care costs is due to lax enforcement, broken markets and, unfortunately, unvarnished greed,” Blumenthal said during the event. “There are more fundamental problems that need to be addressed. Many of the companies are too big — and are monopolies — and have misused their monopolistic power.”
This legislation will call for stronger enforcement of federal antitrust laws as well as more transparency in drug costs; the driving force being claims by pharmaceutical companies of research and development necessitating costs to increase, must be verifiable.
During a panel discussion at Hartford Hospital on Tuesday, fellow Fast Generics Act supporter Hartford Hospital’s Pharmacy Director Mike Rubino cited another study from the University of Utah’s Drug Information Services that found the number of prescription drugs “in shortage” had risen 74% just between 2010 and 2015.
The expectation is that introducing more generic drugs at a quicker pace to the market will in turn decrease the prices of name brand medications.