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.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Dec 09, 2019 10:33

"Why do we keep voting them back into office ?" Well, what do you mean by "we?"  I do understand the frustration, however, since it seems almost impossible to get rid of a bad politician once he's firmly in office.  Still, let's remember that the Dems have a habit of retiring or just quitting when there's a question of bad behavior.  Al Franken did the honorable thing even though his offense seems only to have been a bad joke.  On the other hand we have Republicans sitting on the impeachment committee with serious charges against them - Nunes' involvement in the very crimes he's questioning and Jim Jordan's growing number of accusers about sexual abuse- and their only response is to ignore or deny reality.  Perhaps it takes another Republican -one with a remaining shred of decency- to state the obvious:


"Today's Republican politicians are spineless, rotten to the core, without virtue, without any level of human integrity, devoid of self respect, without courage and without the moral compass to recognize their own malevolence." -David Jolly, former Republican Rep. from Florida


Sounds like a man who's been betrayed, doesn't it, and that's probably the case.  And if you believe that "Corruption inside the beltway is totally bi-partician" than you have to at least admit that the Republicans are the most brazen about.  Remember when a former Republican speaker of the house walked around the room handing out checks from the tobacco industry to his comrades for "campaign contributions?"  I do.


And "why are we red baiting?" Have you not been paying attention?


'Our task was to set Americans against their own government': New details emerge about Russia's trolling operation


The secretive factory had several components, including a "Russian desk," a "foreign desk," a "Facebook desk," and a "Department of Provocations," according to the former troll, who went by the name "Maxim."



The Russian desk operated bots and trolls that used fake social-media accounts to flood the internet with pro-Trump messages and made-up news.


The foreign desk was more sophisticated, with trolls required to learn the nuances of American politics to best "rock the boat" on divisive issues.


"Our task was to set Americans against their own government," Maxim said, "to provoke unrest and discontent."

"Our task was to set Americans against their own government." Do I need to write that again.  Has this sunk in finally?  Is this "red baiting" to you.  Do you think that all of our government intelligence agencies are wrong when they say that Russia interferred in our elections?  Is this OK with you?


"Russia chose Donald Trump as the U.S. presidential candidate who would be most advantageous to Moscow, and used online tactics to win him the presidency, according to a former agent of the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.


"Officials in Moscow looked at the 2016 U.S. presidential race and asked, 'Which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House? Who will help us achieve our goals?' And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president," former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told the audience at the Marker's digital conference in Israel on Monday, where experts gathered to discuss online disinformation campaigns and bots."


So much for your "good people." I don't doubt that there are many in Russia -My best friend in high school was a Russian refugee- but the "good people" are not in control of that country nor it's government. And Putin is not "good people" by any stretch of the imagination. Does the term "useful idiot" mean anything to you.  Wake up!


And if it's "always better to have more friends than enemies" than why is trump destroying the alliances of countries that have been our friends since 1945 and throughout the cold war.  Oh, glad you asked.  Here's why:


"Agents of influence ...  This relationship began no later than the summer of 1987, when Trump visited Moscow and Leningrad, at the Kremlin’s invite, ostensibly to discuss building hotels in Russia (which, three decades on, have never materialized). In fact, Trump’s VIP visit was arranged by the KGB, as all such Cold War sojourns by Western notables were.


"...  it seems a remarkable coincidence that, barely a month after his return from the USSR, he made a splash by taking out newspaper ads in three major outlets, at a cost of almost $95,000, lambasting America’s allegedly free-loading allies. The plus-sized ads demanded that the United States disband the Western security system altogether, which of course was precisely what Moscow wanted. Trump’s public attacks on America’s allies thus began—and have continued to the present day.


In the 1990s, when his real estate/casino empire went bust and he desperately needed cash to stay afloat—which no American bank would lend him, knowing his creditworthiness... Suspicion lingers that in the 1990s the Trump Organization, which failed as a legitimate business, reinvented itself as a money-washing machine for Eastern organized crime. There’s evidence that this is precisely what happened, and it’s been hiding in plain sight for nearly two decades. The Treasury Department’s $10 million fine levied in 2015 on the now-defunct Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City for pervasive violations of the Bank Secrecy Act gives hints that there’s a lot of unraveling being done by Team Mueller as it gets to the bottom of what the Trump Organization really is.”


Sure, the US has just as many dirty secrets -the undermining of democratically elected governments around the world just to name a few- but that's no excuse for allowing Putin to call the shots in our country, and make no bones about it, he does, through trump.

"President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy...  This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office."  -Thomas Friedman


I suppose it's all a matter of opinion, right?  Who do you want to believe:  Rachel Madow, or trump? Who has the better reputation for truth? 

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: Ronald Horvath | Dec 08, 2019 17:26

"Susan Collins and Mitch McConnell are just as complicit?"  Really?  And yet you think the Dems are swamp creatures.   Maybe you should take a look at the number of bills the Dems have passed in an attempt to get beyond your dreaded status quo  including ones to prevent that "election interference" we all worry about.  Republican corruption as personified by Moscow Mitch McConnell is what holds us in limbo.


"House members have passed or agreed to 389 bills and 151 resolutions since January, when Democrats took control. But McConnell has left many untouched in the GOP-led Senate, having vowed to block their progressive policies as the "grim reaper" to their bills on issues such as election security and background checks.


Perhaps a look at McConnell's elite backers could be a clue.


"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell squashed two bills intended to ensure voting security on Thursday, just one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russians were attempting to sabotage the 2020 presidential elections "as we sit here."

"...  as previously reported, earlier this year McConnell received a slew of donations from four of the top voting machine lobbyists in the country."

And nothing will change as long as Republicans control the path forward.


"...  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has decided not to bring any election security bills to the floor for a vote... Blunt, the chairman, responded that it would be fruitless to advance legislation that McConnell would not allow to come up for a vote."

And why is McConnell so obstinate about not protecting our elections, you might ask?  Because he's been bought, obviously:


"During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born (but Russian-raised) billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik's donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund..."In January, Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump's Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik's companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.”


I'm sorry but you may claim that "Corruption doesn’t follow party lines"  but when Republicans are in power it's arc tends toward the right. Just ask the first two Republican congressmen -Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter-to endorse trump and who are now awaiting sentencing for just such corruption.  And McConnell isn't alone in his connections to the Kremlin.


"Marco Rubio's Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik's two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000."


And of course Mitch has found it equally profitable to prevent any reasonable gun control.

"In just the last six months, the gun promoters have spent $1.6 million on lobbying members of the House and Senate to keep any legislation from moving forward.  Mitch oversees the Senate PACs, and that’s where the lion’s share of that quarter million per month has gone.  In return, McConnell has single-handedly blocked all legislation, even for the gun reforms that some members of his OWN CAUCUS support."


How's that for retaining the "status Quo?"  Yes, indeed, McConnell is a major swamp monster, almost as big as trump himself. (Need I remind you that trump has just been fined two million dollars for stealing from his own "charity.")


As for Susan Collins you only have to read the editorial in today's Portland Press Herald to know that she has taken money from Big Pharma and been rewarded for caving to McConnell when ever he commands it.

"Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the most senior Republican woman in the Senate, raised roughly $1.5 million in campaign donations last quarter the vast majority of which came from out of state.

Of the $1.1 million in itemized contributions -those of $200 or more- Collins received between January and March, just over 1 percent (roughly $9,000) came from Mainers, Federal Election Commission filings released earlier this month show."


But, of course those big, glossy, expensive ads being run every 15 minutes on Maine TV channels accuse her opponent of "taking out of state money."  So how does that jive with the fact that in at least one quarter of the past year Collins received more donations from fossil fuel companies based in Texas than from residents in Maine.  Right after that she voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, to head the Dept. of the Interior. So, I guess, we'd have to call Sen. Collins "two-faced" in the words of her party's leader, wouldn't we.


And let's not forget:


"Judicial Crisis Network, a so-called dark money group that supported Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, spent at least $100,000 to thank Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) for voting yes on President Trump’s second nominee to the high court, according to The Washington Post.

The ad ends with a phone number for Collins’ Washington office. The group did not disclose the amount of its ad buy but said it would amount to more than $100,000 for television and digital ads."


Oh yeah.  The arc of corruption does seem to lean toward the Republicans doesn't it.  It's understandable though.  Just compare President Obama's quiet, solid, dignified and inspirational speeches to trump's childish, petulant, self-glorifying outbursts.  There's the difference in style that projects a vast difference in character.  After all, to quote myself on trump:


"That he is the defining figure in what can only be called American Pseudo-Conservatism is undeniable.  And there's a truth the public is fast coming to realize, that a party led by a malignant liar is a party of liars, a party led by a corrupt cheat and fraud is a party of corruption and fraud, and a party led by a coward is a party of cowards. The fish rots from the head down and this rot is cancerous (as Lyin' Ted Cruz once said.)

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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