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January 11, 2012

A Prescription for Drug Shortages

JAMA. 2012;307(2):153-154. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.2000

The accelerating use of generic drugs, which now account for 70% or more of prescriptions in the United States, has been greeted with great approbation. But the lack of market forces in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry is resulting in a worrisome trend—shortages of drugs are occurring with increasing frequency. In the last few years, the shortages are no longer limited to orphan drugs but have begun to affect familiar medications that play a central role in current treatment. On October 31, 2011, President Obama signed an executive order allowing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broader latitude in its efforts to contain drug shortages. But the problem is complex and will not be easily remedied.