Healthcare Policy January 27, 2023

Medications Are a National Security Issue

by Barry P Chaiken, MD

Over the past several years, patients experienced medication shortages that included cancer drugs, antibiotics for sepsis, and, most recently, over-the-counter pediatric analgesics. Worried parents with children suffering from RSV or the flu are purchasing $4 over-the-counter drugs for $30 and up online due to shortages. And these problems are not due to supply chain issues created by the pandemic.

Shortages of critical medications go back more than a decade, with the FDA issuing an annual report on the subject since 2012. The 2020 CARES Act established an ad hoc committee to examine the security and resilience of U.S. medical supply chains. The committee report released last year identifies preparedness as one of the four vital protective layers to secure an adequate supply of medications. The preparedness layer calls explicitly for the stockpiling of medical products on a regional basis to reduce the chance of crucial medication shortages.

With our healthcare bill surpassing $4 trillion, we have the resources to ensure our hospitals and pharmacies have an adequate supply of life-saving drugs. It is time for us to invest in raw material supply chains, manufacturing capacity, and stockpiling of medications to protect patients from unnecessary harm.

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