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The Causes of the Drug Shortage Essay Example

The following essay on the causes of the drug shortage covers an important topic for everyone to think about. If you need some great essay writers to craft a similar one, don’t hesitate to address us.

There is no question that there is a drug shortage, which can create serious problems within the medical community, for both patients and care providers. However, I would argue that trying to oversimplify the issue, or narrow it down to a single cause is ignoring the multitude of factors that are contributing to the overall shortage. As such, there is no single solution, but rather, a need to change regulations to account for multiple contributing factors.

It is important to note that these shortages are most often related to low-cost, generic drugs which are critical for treatment of disease. For example, the scarcity of injectable talc makes it difficult to treat plural effusion. Injectable talc can provide relief for patients for months, and comes at a low cost of just $120 per 30 grams (Loftus, 2017). However drug shortages force doctors to seek more expensive, but more readily available alternatives. Low cost injectable drugs are most often disrupted or involved in the drug shortage (Gottleib, 2011). As such, it is critical to understand the causes of these shortages.

First, there is the issue of the supply chain. Irregularity or disturbances in the supply chain can alter the production of the drugs. For example, many manufacturers have reported, at various points, suffering from difficulties gaining enough raw materials to create certain drugs. This, in turn, creates a reduction in the amount of these drugs, especially generic low cost drugs, that can be produced.

A second set of factors are regulatory factors, including price fixing, which create challenges in the distribution and purchasing of these drugs. In essence, these regulations fail to allow for a consistent and competitive market to be established, and instead create strange surges in demand, cause hospitals to buy up and hoard drugs, and discourage businesses form continuing to produce drugs for which profit margins are already low.

These regulations lead to a third set of factors which influence the drug availability, which are business decision making. The design of regulation, and of changing requirements as they relate to regulation, are meant to make generic drugs safer, by increasing oversight of how they are manufactured. However, they also force businesses to continuously upgrade their manufacturing equipment. This leads businesses to make hard business decisions, including deciding not to manufacture generic drugs with low profit margins, when regulations change and upgrades are needed. In short, they determine that the cost of upgrade is too high, based on the company’s ability to realize profit from the drugs created on that particular line. Thus, given that the bulk of the factors contributing to the drug shortage in some way tie back to regulation, the best solution is to remove regulation that prevents businesses from being profitable. This could include changing the way that Medicare approaches payment for these generic drugs, ensuring a competitive market, and reducing the need for businesses to upgrade their production lines, in ways that lead to the businesses stopping production, rather than upgrading.


Gottleib, S. (2011, November 4). Solving the growing drug shortage. Wall Street Journal.

Loftus, P. (2017, July 1). Shortages of simple drugs thwart treatments. Wall Street Journal.


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