The federal agency can choose from a suite of responses when a drug shortage is reported, including:
Bearing the Cost
"It's a very complex problem. If we could fix it tomorrow, it would be great, but that's unlikely," said Cynthia Reilly, director of the medication safety and quality division at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
"We really can't hold one party responsible for drug supply," she said. "Realistically, part of the reason we have great drugs to treat patients is we have a free market."
Enrique Seoane-Vazquez, PhD, an associate professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University in Boston, said assigning responsibility for the costs linked to maintaining adequate supplies of medications is at the heart of the drug shortage issue.
"If a hospital doesn't have a medication, nobody is responsible even if you die," said Seoane-Vazquez, who serves as director of MCPHSU's International Center for Pharmaceutical Economics. "This is the main problem… the lack of responsibility."
He said the players at the opposite extremes of the supply chain—manufacturers and healthcare providers—would face significant costs if they were compelled to bear the burden of avoiding drug shortages alone.