Bill would empower FDA in potential shortages

Drug shortages have garnered a lot of headlines lately, particularly because one of the scarcest meds happens to be part of the lethal cocktail given to death-row prisoners. But many other drugs are running short, including potentially life-saving cancer treatments. In fact, an industry group counts 150 medically necessary drugs on the shortage list.

Pharmacists, hospitals and patient groups have all been raising alarms about the supply problems, while drugmakers have cited a host of causes, including manufacturing troubles, active-ingredient shortages, and unexpected spikes in demand. Congress has apparently heard. Two senators have introduced a bill designed to curb shortages.

The measure would require drugmakers to notify the FDA whenever they see problems that could end up triggering a shortage. The agency in turn would have to keep up-to-date with its warnings to the public about scarce drugs and to publicize the steps it intends to take to fight the shortages.

Currently, the FDA doesn't have the authority to require pharma firms to notify it about potential scarcity. "This common-sense solution will help set up an early warning system so pharmacists and physicians can prepare in advance and ensure that patients continue to receive the best care possible," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of the bill's sponsors.

- get the statement from Klobuchar's office
- read the InPharm coverage