What’s going on? There are now 198 drugs—including critically needed antibiotics, cancer drugs, diuretics, sedatives, stimulants and vaccines—in short supply in the U.S., something which has doctors and consumers worried. The American Hospital Association said in July that 99.5 percent of 820 hospitals they surveyed had run short of some drug in the previous 6 months, and 44 percent had run short of 20 or more drugs in that time.
What’s the Big Idea?
No one can figure out what to do, writes Maryn McKenna, who explains that many of the drugs are made by a single manufacturer, leaving their supply particularly vulnerable to disruption if a raw material runs out or a plant experiences infrastructure failures. Others are made by offshore manufacturers. The best that legislators have come up with is a proposed bill to force manufacturers to at least give advance notice when a drug is about to disappear.