There’s no such thing as a free lunch: the cancer drug shortage. A harbinger of things to come?

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.

Posted in ,


A TEA party partisan, guerrilla fighting in the trenches of liberal Massachusetts.


  1. Mild Bill on February 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Highly unlikely parmaceuticals will move offshore. We have an FDA standard that all the pharmaceutical companies have to meet before their drugs can be sold in this country. Research facilities, in this country, ?are under FDA scrutiny to promote consumer safety.

    It is more likely that production will decrease to control costs at a level where there is sufficient profits to the investors.? In the meantime, some people will die long before they are eligible for the Obama one time final solution pill.

    Canadian price controls were a myth. The drug companies underpriced to stay in the market and shifted the cost to other consumers where price controls didn’t exist. This practice only worsened the situation.? Everyone eventually wanted to pay less and it wasn’t possible. Corporations are people who work for money. No money, no work.

  2. Lynn on February 17, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Brings a whole new level to the Death Squads portion of Obamacare. Why oh why didn’t anybody read this darn bill. Madame Pelosi, I mean you!

  3. JBS on February 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Life expectancy for men and women in America is the next causality of? ?bamacare.

  4. Tim-in-Alabama on February 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    It is necessary for some people not to receive healthcare so that everyone can receive “free” healthcare from the Chosen One.

  5. NH-Jim on February 21, 2012 at 10:12 am

    ‘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.”

    Simple, they will just be MANDATED to do so.? Welcome to tyranny.


The website's content and articles were migrated to a new framework in October 2023. You may see [shortcodes in brackets] that do not make any sense. Please ignore that stuff. We may fix it at some point, but we do not have the time now.

You'll also note comments migrated over may have misplaced question marks and missing spaces. All comments were migrated, but trackbacks may not show.

The site is not broken.