Drug shortages soar as Pharma financials plummet

Some 180 drugs are in short supply through the first nine months of 2010, compared with 166 in all of 2009. The shortages, tracked by the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah Health Care, are “unprecedented,” says manager Erin Fox.

Those in short supply tend to be commonly used: morphine for pain relief, propofol for sedation, Bactrim for infections.

The FDA says about 40% of the shortages are caused by manufacturing issues, some related to drug safety. 20% are the result of production delays and another 20% occur when drugmakers stop making the treatments. The remaining 20% stem from raw material shortages, increased demand, site issues and component problems, as was the case with the much publicized recent Lipitor recall.

However, both the University of Utah and the FDA ascribe financial reasons for many of the shortages, as pharmaceutical companies suffer profit declines due to generics.

While most companies refuse to comment on the reasons for the shortages Teva is not so shy.  Last May when it exited the propofol business Teva executives admitted that the drug is hard to make and barely profitable.

Which kind of blows our secret theory that they merely decided to distance themselves from Michael Jackson’s death?

Whether you work for a pharmaceutical company experiencing shortages or if you’re a patient suffering as a result, Word on Health would love to hear from you.

One test too many?

How’s this for a dichotomy?  During the same week we learned that America is $13 trillion in debt, a new study reported that over 90% of US doctors knowingly order more tests and procedures than are medically necessary.

No surprise then that the United States spends more than any other industrialized country on healthcare expenses.  A staggering $2 trillion annually to be exact.

The new survey by Mount Sinai School of Medicine, published in Archives of Internal Medicine questioned 2,416 physicians. 91% of respondents believe that concerns over malpractice lawsuits result in them practicing “defensive medicine.”

About $60 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine and many physicians feel they are vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits even when they practice competently within the standard of care,” said Tara Bishop, MD, co-author of the study.

The majority of physicians (90.7%) also stated that for them to decrease the ordering of unnecessary medical tests, better protections against unwarranted malpractice suits are needed.

Word on Health could not agree more.  At a time when the healthcare system is in such crisis that hospitals nationwide are reporting major drug shortages, we should not be forcing physicians to waste money to protect themselves from malpractice concerns. Not only are we exposing patients to unnecessary, and often invasive, procedures, this crippling fear of litigation is surely impacting health care reform efforts.

Time for tort reform?  Let us know what you think .