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Is Your Medication in Danger of a Global Shortage?


You may know us here at Insiders Health for our tendency to be on the “alternative” side – that is, that we regularly promote natural solutions and holistic approaches when it comes to your health. But we also do recognize the benefit of certain medications – especially those that are instrumental in things like cancer treatment.

But what if those medications were no longer available to you – even though your life depended on it? That’s seemingly the case with a select number of prescriptions, with more joining the “shortage list” every day.

Dwindling Drugs

If you have a child with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, you may have begun to feel the sting of the recent shortage of drugs used to treat the disorder. These medications are probably the most well-known for the shortage issue, but even those without ADHD may have seen a deficit of important drugs that might be essential to treating their illnesses . . . or even keeping them alive. And the worst part is that in most cases, the cause of the shortage can't even be decisively determined.  However, according to a recent report by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many of the shortages can be attributed to complicated legal, regulatory and economic factors.
 
Two such drugs are Ritalin and Adderall, both of which are used to treat ADHD and hyperactivity.  Pharmacists, psychiatrists and parents of hyperactive children are all noticing the huge price hikes on the drugs, as well as the increased difficulty in obtaining them as needed.  Another two drugs that are in high demand but short supply are Doxil, which is prescribed to treat uterine cancer, and mitomycin, which is used for bladder cancer.
 
The Fallout

Having a shortage of these drugs could be life threatening to patients who depend on them.  It has gotten so bad that Doxil can't even be obtained in the United States anymore, for the time being.  Mitomycin, on the other hand, is in such short supply that pharmacies must tuck away the last few amounts of drugs for patients who already began a chemotherapy regimen, so they don't have to stop halfway through the program only to find out that they don't have the medicine they need to complete it. 

Thousands of American patients are being affected by the recent drug shortages.  Many are forced to drive much longer distances to get medicine, while others have to either pay a lot more for the same medication or switch to a less effective substitute.  The FDA believes that the worst is yet to come, and that some proposals to address the problem would indeed fix the shortages, but might lead to higher drug and insurance costs.  Many of the causes can be pinned on the drug manufacturers themselves, due to manufacturing violations, production delays, shipping problems or ingredient shortages.
 
Regardless of who is to blame, the FDA as well as other federal regulators and leading industry groups are all calling this drug shortage a national health crisis that is yet to be resolved.  Political stalemates, combined with fewer plants and less generic drug manufacturers, prevent us from seeing any resolution in the near future.  Until then, patients must get together with their doctors and see if there are any alternative drugs that may be just as effective in treating their illnesses.

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