Prescription Medicine shortages : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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This is from January 15, 2001 Web posted at: 1:44 PM EST (1844 GMT)

From Jim Morelli CNN Correspondent

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) - A rash of drug shortages has some pharmacists looking at sparse supplies of everything but irritated customers.

Pharmacist Robert Skenderian said he's even run short of common drugs such as the asthma medication albuterol, and some antibiotics.

"We didn't run out," Skenderian said. "But what happened was that I wound up getting gouged as far as the price."

In late October, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and other health authorities encouraged people at low risk for influenza to wait until December to seek immunization because of delayed supplies.

Manufacturing problems delayed shipment of the vaccine, which increased the price in some cases to nearly $100 a vial. Shipment delays have been solved and supplies are now plentiful.

But Congressman Marion Berry, a Democrat from Arkansas, lays the blame for price spikes on drug makers.

"This whole problem stems from the accomplished goal of the prescription drug manufacturers worldwide to make exorbitant profits," said Berry, who supports proposed legislation to bring U.S. drug prices into parity with those in other countries. "I have worked very hard since I came to Congress to achieve fair and sensible drug prices for the American consumer."

A pharmaceutical industry source told CNN, however, that shortages could happen for very good reasons, such as a difficulty in getting the proper ingredients for a particular medicine.

Such manufacturing difficulties are the stated reason behind a shortage of the drug isoproterenol, which is used in hospitals to treat shock.

"We don't know what's going to happen when we can't get the drug," said Mark Cohen, a physician at St. Joseph's Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Other drugs named on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "current shortages" list include cytarabine, an anti-leukemia drug also used to treat herpes; and flumazenil, an agent used to reverse the effects of surgical sedation.

While most reasons cited are "manufacturing difficulties," an "unexpected increase in demand" is noted concerning shortages of the painkiller fentanyl.

But such drugs are not the only ones that worry hospital pharmacists, who report that nearly every day, orders at St. Joseph come back from the hospital's wholesaler unfilled - even for basic antibiotics.

The FDA agrees that more drugs seem to be running short, but says all it can do is recommend that people look for alternative suppliers.

Deborah Bertram found herself in a pinch during a recent hospitalization related to her myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease characterized by extreme fatigue and temporary muscle paralysis.

The hospital couldn't find the drug she relies on, called mestinon, anywhere.

"And so they sent my husband home" - a 40-mile round trip - to pick up her personal supply.


Hope you are keeping current with your meds! This was predicted 1 and a half years ago!

-- seraphima (, January 16, 2001


You are right. I stocked up in late 1999, and am glad I did.

-- LillyLP (, January 16, 2001.

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