President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday to address growing shortages of life-saving medications, such as cancer treatments, antibiotics and anesthetic drugs used during surgeries and complicated medical procedures.
The executive order will require companies that manufacture drugs to notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sooner about supply problems and impending shortages.
The measure also gives the FDA the authority to expedite its process for reviewing applications from companies that want to change or ramp up drug production to address shortages.
The FDA will also go after companies more aggressively that stockpile certain drugs or sell them at exorbitant prices. The Department of Justice will then determine whether such activities are allowed under current law and punish any companies engaging in illegal practices.
The executive order comes on the heels of an October report by the Federal Trade Commission that found several pharmaceutical companies paid off potential generic rivals in 2010 to delay introducing lower-cost prescription drug alternatives to the market.
Not only do drug shortages endanger patient safety, but they cause drug prices to go up for hospitals, which in turn means higher overall health care costs for the average consumer. I’ve covered the issue for both Dorland Health and the Baltimore Business Journal. Check out my previous stories here and here.