Robin Miller, a 62-year-old oncologist in Atlanta with bladder cancer, was scheduled to receive a potentially lifesaving drug in December. But her doctor’s office called shortly before the appointment to say: “Sorry, we don’t have any. We can’t give it to you,” according to Dr. Miller.
The disruption was due to a global shortage of the drug, BCG, which arose after manufacturing problems at two of the few global suppliers. Without the drug, Dr. Miller feared her cancer would come back and she would have to have her bladder removed, a step she called “barbaric.”
The crisis illustrates the potentially grave consequences of a persistent problem in health care: drug shortages. The number of drugs in short supply in the U.S. has risen 74% from five years ago, to about 265, according to the University of Utah’s Drug Information Service, which tracks supplies. They range from antibiotics and cancer treatments to commodity items such as saline. (Peter Loftus, “U.S. drug shortages frustrate doctors, patients,” Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2015)
The U.S. government’s measures to mitigate this problem have failed because it has ignored NCPA’s conclusion that shortages result from too much, not too little control over the market for these drugs.
The government keeps tightening the screws on manufacturers, and the shortages keep growing.
See Devon Herrick’s testimony to the U.S. Senate in 2011 and my own study published in 2012.