New Effort to Reduce Drug Shortages a Small Step

In light of unprecedented drug shortages, President Barack Obama on Monday ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take new steps to send out early warnings about looming drug shortages and try to avert them.

There's already a crisis in the eyes of many frustrated doctors and hospitals who are scrambling for supplies of medicines ranging from common chemotherapies, to anesthetics used in surgery, to the electrolytes that are crucial to IV feeding in intensive care. Fifteen deaths have been blamed on shortages. Patients have had treatments delayed, surgeries canceled, or had to use second-choice medications. Hospitals are reporting price-gouging - such as a drug that usually costs $26 being offered for $1,200.

Sometimes, "you have to look the patient in the eye and say, `I can't treat you. I certainly can't treat you the way I meant to treat you,'" said Dr. James Speyer, medical director of the clinical cancer center at New York University Langone Medical Center.

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Source: The Associated Press