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Drug shortages affect Maine, nation

By Christine Simmonds | Dec 06, 2019

Maine — Drug shortages have hit the entire nation the past few years, including Maine’s hospitals and pharmacies.

In October of this year, the Food and Drug Administration released a report titled, “Drug Shortages: Root Causes and Potential Solutions.” In the report, the FDA identified three causes of drug shortages, and three recommendations to deal with the issue. The main problem, according to the report, seems to be a lack of financial incentive for the drug manufacturers. There is not enough money to be made from manufacturing some drugs that are part of the shortage, or from maintaining high standards that keep medications from being recalled.

This drug shortage problem has been noted by the Senate, and Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Tina Smith of Minnesota have introduced a bill named the Mitigating Emergency Drug Shortages Act, or MEDS.

According to Collins’ newsroom, the bill would allow the Federal Drug Administration to “prioritize review of drug applications and inspections” during a drug shortage.

The MEDS bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a risk assessment of national security threats associated with drug shortages and the inability of the United States to make and maintain a supply of lifesaving medicines.

The bill has been read by the Senate and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at the end of October.

There are some who feel the MEDS bill is not enough to address the ongoing drug shortage problems, though. Phillip L. Zweig is an executive director of Physicians Against Drug Shortages and author of a 2012 white paper addressing the drug shortage that gained attention on the national level.

Zweig penned an opinion column published in early November where he calls the MEDS bill a “fake solution” that “fails to address [the] root cause of drug shortages.”

According to Zweig, a major cause is “anticompetitive contracting and pricing practices” by group purchasing organizations who control the purchase of medications. He points to the FDA’s report in October as more proof of this.

Brandon Archibald, Pharmacist in Charge at the Community Pharmacy in Waldoboro, said that currently there is a recall on angiotensin II receptor blockers – blood pressure medications known as ARBs. These medications were found to have low doses of a cancer causing agent, and all ARBs were recalled by the FDA.

According to Amelia Arnold, Pharmacy Operations Manager for Community Pharmacy’s nine locations in Maine, this drug shortage is not a new problem, though it is recently receiving more attention. Arnold also pointed out that the problem extends beyond just pharmacies. Hospitals are struggling to maintain lifesaving medicines as well.

One such medication that was part of a shortage starting in October 2017 was Shingrix, a shingles medication originally marketed for people 60 and older. When the CDC began recommending Shingrix for adults age 50 and older, suddenly the market could not keep up with the demand, and hundreds of patients were left waiting for this important vaccination.

Currently Shingrix is no longer in short supply. Arnold stated that the manufacturer of Shingrix was able to increase production to overcome the deficit because the financial incentive was there.

Archibald said that the drug storage has been a burden on some customers who have to make multiple trips to try and get their medication. Sometimes a medication is so back-ordered that Archibald will reach out to doctors and try to find different prescriptions that can treat the same ailment and are available.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Dec 09, 2019 08:51

Well it seems we have at least one other person awake, however I am not sure where this idea that corruption in Washington follows party lines comes from.  Quite the contrary,  Corruption inside the beltway is totally bi-partician.  Yes those you mentioned are well known offenders, the only thing I do not understand, "why do we keep voting them back into office ?".  Will be interesting to see if Maine voters finally desert Sue Collins,  but don't be surprised if she's re-elected.  Please, may I ask, why are we "Red baiting ".  Joe McCarthy is long gone and so should this cold war tatic be as well.  Let's not blame our heartburn on the Russians they are good people (I must be a Russian plant).  The U.S. has just as many if not more dirty secrets.  It's always better to have more friends than enemies and will someone please take Rachael Maddow off the air before she triggers WW 111.




Posted by: Dennis Simmons | Dec 08, 2019 19:26

But there is plenty of free Narcan......

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Dec 08, 2019 09:46

Cindy what I find even more concerning is that this story with such far reaching consequences has garnered but two comments.  Most polls conclude that Health care is THE most important issue of concern to the American public, yet we find that Joe Biden currently a front runner in the Democratic race for President wants to return us to the "Status Quo".  Most of our representatives calling for a continuation of our current policy are doing so because they are PAID to say just that.  Paid by the insurance & drug companies to ensure your money keeps flowing into their pockets and not yours.   We all need to wake up and smell the coffee.  Stop watching MSNBC, CNN and Bloomberg news (yes it is owned by).  These outlets as well as The New York Times & the Washington Post (owned by Amazon) are just pushing the establishment line.  They want to convince you things will be fine once we get Trump out of office and Bloomberg in.  See where i'm going with this.  A wolf in sheeps clothing.  Let's start to pay more attention before we all get duped again.

Posted by: Prock Marine Company | Dec 08, 2019 08:28

Well stated, Stephen.

And even though the Democrats are front-and-center Swamp Creatures in the news these days, many Republicans like Susan Collins and Mitch McConnell are just as complicit in muddying the waters by their ineffectualness and need to be drained, too.

Once elected our Congresspeople don’t have time to represent us because they’re too busy raising money for their next race which means getting cozy with powerful Lobbyists and getting mired down in the swamp muck.... I’m dismayed and disillusioned by how far-reaching the cancer of corruption extends into our national law enforcement agencies and our justice department....

Impeachment proceedings are part of a smokescreen as the rats scramble to save themselves from impending doom. It’s interesting that so many Republicans are wise enough to retire or are choosing not to run again. We can only hope that other Washington politicians see the same light and choose to jump ship, too!

Corruption doesn’t follow party lines. We need to stop fighting the “other” side, stop pointing fingers at each other and choose to seek straight talk and positive results from those we elect as leaders. We need to be independent thinkers ourselves and stop drawing lines. We need fiscal conservators and legal innovators with foresight who can see beyond the 12 years the Green New Deal predict we have left! In the impeachment hearings they’ve been drilling down on what our Constitutional framers meant. Well, the people we send to Washington are supposed to be framers, too! Our world keeps changing and they’re supposed to keep up with it!

Government is not supposed to be about maintaining the status quo.  And those who protest the loudest about quid pro quo are the the same people benefiting from Big Pharma and other Lobbyists.

Keep that in mind as we become enlightened about the sources of election interference.

~Cindy Brooks Prock


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Dec 07, 2019 09:18

A growing number of Americans are slowly beginning to understand the intense degree of corruption that exsists in Washington.  "Big Phama" a term often used meaning the large pharmaceutical companies that heavily subsidize most senators and congressmen,  yes even our own Susan Collins.  These people will not vote any changes that adversely affect the bottom line of these companies.  This is why we have "Obama care"  a national health care system instituted to profit the big insurance and drug manufactures.  As Mr. Zweig states in this article: the bill currently before Congress is "a fake solution", "that fails to address the root cause of the drug shortages".  Let me be perfectly clear on this, inside the beltway there is little concern for the issues facing most Americans. Right now there is a single focus "impeachment"  everything else including those lost souls that voted them into office.  We will have to wait.

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