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Capitol Health Call
November 9, 2011

Drug Shortages

JAMA. 2011;306(18):1970. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1602

The ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating whether “gray market” companies are making substantial profits by buying and then reselling certain vital pharmaceuticals currently in short supply.

On October 5, Rep Elijah E. Cummings (D, Md) sent letters to 5 companies, none of which manufacture drugs or treat patients, seeking information about how these companies obtain drugs and then sell them to hospitals, pharmacies, and patients. In the letters, Cummings cited an August 23 report by Premier Healthcare Alliance looking at 1700 offers of scarce drugs for sale sent from gray market companies to 42 acute care hospitals. The report found that the average markup for these drugs was 650% and that the largest markups were for drugs for critically ill patients, such as adults and children with cancer.