On the “CBS This Morning” show this week , there was a story on the increasing shortage of cancer medications due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the expiration of patent protections and the competing manufacture of generic cancer meds. Sounds great, right?
Cheaper cancer drugs and greater availability, a “win-win” proposition, right? (Video below the fold…)
As Tonto once told the Lone Ranger: not so fast, Kemosabe! CBS is reporting that there are increasing shortages of these meds. Why? Well, when the bottom fell out of the price with the loss of exclusivity, it became less profitable to make the drugs, and with competition from generic sources, some undoubtedly offshore, the original drug developers simply started to close or reprioritize their manufacturing facilities, as hospitals would naturally move to the cheaper versions. As a result, you have fewer suppliers and resulting shortages.
CBS used the shortage of the highly effective children’s leukemia drug Methotrexate as an example, noting that the starring hospital had a two month supply of the drug and three year courses of meds are common. Another 28 cancer drugs taken by over a half million patients are also in short supply.
CBS’ Erica Hill tried to make the point that money alone is driving this shortage, but the doctor they were talking to said that is only part of the problem. There are raw material and regulation issues as well, but profit, or the lack thereof, has a major effect. They note that there are a couple of bills in the House that are designed to address this issue by making the FDA a referee of sorts to address the problem in a more farsighted way. Whether the FDA can do this effectively or at all remains to be seen, but let’s hope for the best. It is a shame we have to make more government to cover government’s mistakes.
From another, more ominous perspective though, this is a harbinger of what will happen with the implementation of Øbamacare and its inherent price and salary controls (unless the SCOTUS saves us). When doctors are told that they can’t make the salaries they are worth, or hospitals are told they can’t sell name brand drugs anymore or sell their services at profitable prices, there will be an inevitable decline in the availability of both doctors and hospital services, respectively. People aren’t going to provide services or products for free; there is an expectation of reasonable profits to recover manufacturing and development costs, or in the case of doctors, recovering the cost of huge medical school tuition loans and pay malpractice insurance while still making a decent salary. Hospitals have to additionally recover the cost for free mandated access to emergency rooms, a problem compounded by frequent misuse by those not in need of emergency care and utilization by illegal aliens.
You can see the effects of price controls in Medicare today: doctors are refusing new patients, because they are paid pennies on the dollar for services, and mandated price fixing of drug force major players out of the market, causing more problems like we are seeing with Methotrexate. Haven’t we seen that price controls, either here or in a more extreme and relevant case, in the old Soviet Union, simply result in shortages? When will politicians learn this basic lesson? How many children will have to die before they will stop tinkering in things they don’t understand? Or will pharmaceuticals be yet another industry that will be exported offshore to fulfill the price fixing demands of politicians?
As I have stated before, your healthcare choices are as follows: you can have it FREE, HIGH QUALITY or UNIVERSAL. Pick any two.