Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Lawmakers say reliance on China exacerbates drug shortages – Roll Call

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Lawmakers say the worsening drug shortage in the United States is hurting the American health care system and called for shifting more manufacturing from China to the United States to help alleviate the problem during a Senate hearing Wednesday.

The number of active drug shortages in the U.S. reached a peak of 295 by the end of 2022. Between 2021 and 2022 new drug shortages increased by nearly 30 percent, said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The shortages touch all kinds of drugs — from everyday hospital needs like saline or anesthetics to critical cancer treatments — and has forced physicians and pharmacists to make tough decisions, with committee witnesses describing being forced to decide whether to treat a young baby with neuroblastoma or an elderly woman with lung cancer due to limited drug supplies.

“Our pharmacists should not be trying to squeeze out a few last drops when lives are on the line,” said Andrew Shuman, an associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and chief of the Clinical Ethics Service Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “All patients affected by drug shortages deserve better.” 

Shortages also cause physicians to, as one witness said, “macgyver,” or improvise different treatment regimens or options when drugs are not available — a solution with potentially dangerous results. While major hospital institutions have more resources to drum up supplies, smaller care centers struggle more.

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