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The growing number of drug shortages plaguing the U.S. health care system is due to what federal officials are calling a “broken marketplace.” And they contend the problem might be fixed with a better understanding of the effect on patients, as well as new incentives for companies to invest in high quality manufacturing facilities.

In a new report, the Food and Drug Administration noted that the number of ongoing shortages has been steadily rising — reaching about 110 — after peaking in 2011 and then declining until last year. Moreover, the agency analyzed 163 drugs for which shortages existed and found that most were relatively lower priced and financially unattractive for manufacturers.


Interestingly, the agency reported that prices rarely rose after shortages began, and during shortages, production typically did not increase enough to restore supply to previous levels. In addition, the agency pointed to a common occurrence: Many manufacturers discontinued production of drugs before a shortage occurred for commercial reasons, such as a loss of profitability.

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