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U.S. medical infrastructure collapsing as drug shortages in emergency rooms skyrocket by 400%


Drug shortages
(NaturalNews) Emergency rooms play a crucial role in the proper functioning of health care in the United States. During any given year, 45% of American people visit the ER, but a recent study published by the Academic Emergency Medicine journal suggests that not all of them can receive help. According to the study, between 2001 and 2014, drug shortages in ERs throughout the U.S. increased by a staggering 400%.

For some patients, this translated into prolonged duration of their diseases, permanent injury and even death. As the FDA struggles to resolve the issue, but unsurprisingly only makes matters worse, the actual cause of the spike in drug shortages remains neglected.

What the study says about drug shortages

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the study in question put together data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service. The latter has been keeping track of drug shortages through a public website that receives reports on behalf of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. According to these reports, 1,800 drug shortages were submitted between 2001 and 2014, 34% of which took place in emergency rooms. It seems that, although the number of shortages was lower up to 2007, the following years witnessed a 435% increase.

The study also wanted to determine whether these drug shortages were associated with lifesaving situations. As it turns out, a shocking 52.6% of shortages were of lifesaving drugs, while 10% referred to drugs with no substitute. Even when doctors were able to access replacement drugs, their lesser familiarity with the new drugs often led to mistakes and therefore to more casualties.

How could this happen?

In February 2014, a report was published by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) in order to determine what had gone wrong with the drug market. By interviewing FDA officials, as well as drug manufacturers and purchasers, GAO came up with four primary reasons for the spike in drug shortages. While discontinued production and regulatory processes were responsible for 6% and 3% of shortages, respectively, manufacturing problems accounted for 22% of shortages. Finally, a discrepancy between supply and demand resulted in a 12% shortage.

As the report clearly shows, one of the most frequently cited immediate causes of drug shortages was that a manufacturer was forced to slow, postpone or altogether halt the production of a certain drug after a quality problem was identified by the FDA. While some manufacturers claim that the FDA investigators interpret the CGMPs differently and apply stricter sanctions, others believe that quality standards have also been raised during recent years. In any case, it seems that the more involved the FDA was, the more shortages were created.

Still, anyone doing the math will inevitably come to the conclusion that the reasons provided by the GOA report cover less than half of the total drug shortages. That's because in over 57% of the investigated shortages, the reason remains "unknown."

The U.S. medical infrastructure on the verge of collapse

The truth is that the U.S. medical infrastructure is in a state of collapse. The underlying cause is, as usual, a financial one. The same GOA report showed that drug purchasers often tend to discredit the quality of a drug and choose to consider only the lowest price instead, primarily due to financial constraints. As a result, any manufacturer that strives to place their product above the minimum standards is met with an impossible market where they cannot sell for a reasonable price.

Ultimately, this caused manufacturers to stop investing in their establishments. What happened next? The FDA identified quality problems with their production and they were forced to either halt the manufacturing of drugs for renovation, or quit the market altogether. Back in the ER room, this accounted for yet another drug shortage and possibly an injured patient.

A vicious circle with no end in sight.

Sources include:

ChicagoTribune.com

ASHP.org[PDF]

GAO.gov[PDF]

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