Research reveals shortage of critical medicines on the rise

(Image courtesy Unsplash)
(Image courtesy Unsplash)

The medical profession around the globe has been focused over the last few flu seasons on COVID and its after-effects.

That includes those medicine manufacturers, some of whom profited by billions of dollars for their work producing those experimental COVID shots.

But that focus has come with a cost: that some medicines now are hard to find, delayed and worse, unavailable.

A report in the Daily Mail explains that shortages now are being noticed for meds used against blood cancers, pneumonia and even mental illness.

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The publication’s investigation found that some patients are having to wait more than a year.

“One notable medicine in short supply is the antibiotic amoxicillin; used to treat bacterial infections, including the bacterial infection partly driving the so-called ‘white lung’ outbreak in Ohio and China,” the report said.

Official figures obtained by the research found the number of medications in short supply was up 30% from 2021 to 2022, hitting a five-year high of 295.

It reported the American Cancer Society confirmed one patient in 10 “has been affected by shortages,” and they’ve turned to substitutes or delayed treatment.

It reported the mother of a 9-year-old girl with leukemia was told to expect a 15-month wait for a $10 drug that would save the child’s life, the report said. The mother found one dose available nationwide after calling hundreds of hospitals, and the treatment was successful.

The report noted most of those treatments in short supply are those most in demand, the generics that cost patients less.

But the problem now is getting attention, including a committee in the U.S. Senate which met this week to hear testimony about the depth and breadth of the troubles.

The Daily Mail noted Dr. Jason Westin, of a Lymphoma Clinical Research program in Houston, explained, “The absence of a generic and cheap drugs like fludarabine [used to treat blood cancer] literally can be the difference between life and death.”

He warned often patients simply don’t have time to wait, and described physicians making “impossible choices” on which patients to treat, as the cancers are life-threatening, but so are the shortages.

One issue is the patents on medicines, which the Biden administration moved against this week, claiming the right to confiscate those patents should the White House decided to do that.

Patents on older drugs have expired, meaning multiple companies compete to sell them, while newer drugs are locked into one production line, the report said.

Another problem is the supply chain through which medicines are assembled and delivered to consumers. The report warned 95% of key materials in U.S. medicines used in emergency care come from China and India.

The report noted the Food and Drug Administration told the publication it recognizes that there are drug shortages and continues to “strengthen the supply chain.”

“We remain committed to partnering across government, academia, and industry to strengthen and diversify the supply chain, further address drug shortages and ensure Americans continue to have access to drugs that are of high quality, safe and effective,” the agency said.

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