-- Manufacturing problems and generic drug status. Sterile injectables such as Propofol, a widely used anesthesia drug, are notoriously difficult to make. The timeline is long; interruptions in manufacturing one drug can affect multiple products. Sterile injectables can be contaminated easily. Several batches have been recalled in recent years because of dirty particulate matter found in vials.
Recall and liability headaches have led manufacturers to get out of the business. Moreover, as low-priced generic drugs, sterile injectables just aren't as attractive to pharma companies already weathering tough economic times. When drugs go off patent, the prices decrease. The rest is elementary.
"If the costs associated with making a drug begin to outweigh the profits," the New England Journal of Medicine explained, "companies may wish to discontinue production of the drug in favor of a newer, more profitable product. If the number of companies making an older drug decreases, and there is a delay or problem in manufacturing, shortages can and do occur."
-- Bush-era Medicare price controls and Obamacare price controls. Everyone from the free-market Wall Street Journal editorial board to renowned death panelist Ezekiel Emanuel agrees that low prices yield inevitable shortages. President Bush and Republicans imposed a 6 percent cap on cancer drug price increases that took effect six years ago. Health care analyst John Goodman adds that Obamacare exacerbated a separate federal price distortion, which requires drug companies to provide rebates to certain hospitals and clinics "of 23.1 percent for brand drugs; and 13 percent for generic drugs off of their average manufacturer's price on qualifying outpatient drug use."
Emanuel, the controversial former Obama health care guru, provided an unexpected shot in the Democrats' market-bashing arm in a recent New York Times op-ed: "You don't have to be a cynical capitalist to see that the long-term solution is to make the production of generic cancer drugs more profitable."
But instead of a sober debate about the wildly divergent reasons for some of these shortfalls, Obama's perpetual campaign machine gave us taxpayer-funded videos that yank the heartstrings and smear pharmaceutical companies. Instead of an honest assessment of the proposed government "fixes," Washington bureaucrats are using patients as human shields to disguise new power grabs.
Unfortunately, the only cure for Team Obama's overdose of toxic demagoguery lies at the ballot box. We can't wait.