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March 3, 2020

Drug Shortages in the United States: Are Some Prices Too Low?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
  • 2Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing (CP3), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 3Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh
JAMA. 2020;323(9):819-820. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.20504

The US public identified lowering prescription drug prices as the top health priority for Congress in 2019. That nearly all of the 2020 presidential candidates have introduced proposals for lowering drug prices points to the salience of this issue. The focus of debate over drug prices has largely been on prices that are too high. But what if some drug prices are too low? That is the concern raised in a recent report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on drug shortages.1 The FDA suggests that for some drugs, manufacturers lack incentives to enter the market or invest in manufacturing quality, ultimately resulting in shortages. The somewhat paradoxical conclusion of the FDA is that the United States should pay more for some drugs to prevent shortages.