That Drug You Want? Sorry, There's Still a Shortage

Nationwide shortfall ultimately hurts 'the little guy'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2012 4:52 PM CST
An empty pill bottle... not so uncommon these days.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Why would a paramedic in Ohio not administer morphine to a woman in pain? Because it was his last vial—and he wasn't alone in making such an agonizing decision, the New York Times reports. A nationwide drug shortage is leaving health care workers without a variety of drugs, ranging from heart medicines to pre-surgery injections. "When you can’t treat basic things—cardiac arrest, pain management, seizures—you’re in trouble," says one doctor. "When you only have five tools in your toolbox and three of them are gone, what do you do?"

President Obama has stepped in to help and Congress is investigating the shortage, which was brought on mostly by manufacturing problems; others blame the FDA for over-zealously enforcing rules and communicating poorly. Whatever the cause, it has forced tough choices—like the FDA's decision to let doctors use a chemotherapy drug containing glass particles, as long as they filter it first. On the bright side, only about 100 drugs are unavailable, down from 251 last year. And drug companies "are still going to be making millions of dollars," says a Florida woman whose drug supply ran out. "It’s the little guy in the end who ends up with nothing." (Read more drugs stories.)

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