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FDA: Hundreds Of Life-Saving Drugs Not Always Available

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of life-saving drugs may not be available when they’re needed, according to officials inside the Food and Drug Administration.

The list, published by the FDA, features nearly 300 drugs that are in short supply –– including chemotherapy, heart medications, even asthma inhalers.

Dr. Jeff Liticker, manager of the UT Southwestern Clinical Oncology Pharmacy has been a pharmacist for more than 20 years, and the job is not what it used to be.

“Now it’s become a lot more tracking drug inventory and looking at alternative therapies if we run out of a medication,” Dr. Liticker said.

His team at UT Southwestern spends several days a week on the phone with other hospitals essentially bartering drugs and checking calendars to find out which patient needs what medication next.

Pharmacy shelves are not stocked like they used to be.

“Within the last year, this has become a major problem,” he said.

According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, more than half of drug shortages between 2009 and 2011 were identified as critical because alternative drugs were not available.

The American Hospital Association reports that in a recent survey of hospitals nationwide, 82 percent of them had to delay treatment because of a shortage.

Furthermore, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found in its own survey that more than 1,000 respondents reported medication errors when other drugs had to be substituted.

“People could be dying,” said U.S. Rep. Dr. Michael Burgess (R – Lewisville).

He says a new bill introduced just two weeks ago is calling for a better reporting system so the FDA is more aware of manufacturing problems.

While he’s not sure this is the right fix, he is encouraged that politicians are paying attention and proposing action.

“There’s no immediate relief in sight, so the expectation is that it will continue to become a problem,” Burgess said.

And, it’s a problem that Dr. Liticker says can impact any one of us at any time.

“Literally almost every disease is impacted in some way by at least one or two drug shortages,” said Dr. Liticker.

So, what’s the problem?

Industry insiders have actually referred to this as a perfect storm of issues: Too many drug manufacturers going out of business; companies stopping production due to profitability concerns; and quality/manufacturing issues.

We have spoken with several North Texas hospitals that all say they are aware of the shortages and are staying on top of the problem, but they worry about what tomorrow could bring.

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