Critical drugs in short supply
This subject needs much more scrutiny than I have the energy to give it tonight, so I'll just throw it out for all to consider.
Apparently, supply shortages of widely used pharmaceuticals are fairly common in this country. Who knew? What with our righteously free markets and our famously efficient allocation of resources, how is this even possible?
Well, much of the constrained supply appears to be legitimately due to factors such as scarcity of raw materials and regulatory actions dealing with quality control issues. Other reasons include "production problems" and "corporate decisions to discontinue certain medications for financial reasons". The first of these latter two explanations got me to scratching my head. Having lived through the infamous California energy "crisis" of 2000-2001 I recall quite vividly that one of the major contributing factors that sent retail electricity rates soaring was an unprecedented number of power plants being taken offline for "maintenance" when demand was high, in other words production problems. Drug companies wouldn't do that, would they?
The other reason, financial considerations, sounds to me like a blatant abuse of market power:
If these medications are complex but generic and inherently less profitable - like older injectables or chemotherapy agents - some manufacturers stop making them.
The shortages translate into a greater demand for alternative, often brand-name drugs, which means higher costs for pharmacies, hospitals, and ultimately the patients.
And (ahem) inherently higher profits for the manufacturers, of course.
If drug companies are withholding the production of relatively cheap generics in order to increase sales of name brand medications that are still under patent, and thus still providing monopoly rents to the patent holders, isn't some law or another being violated? I don't know, like I said I'm too tired right now to dig deeper.
If only we had a body of anti-trust laws. If only we had a Democratic president who would appoint a Democratic attorney general committed to yada, yada, yada. I'm going to bed.