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Shortages lead docs to ration critical drugs

NPR, October 3, 2011

Drug shortages mean a growing number of Americans aren't getting the medications they need. That's causing drug companies and doctors to ration available medications in some cases. "We're now at 213 shortages for this year," says Erin Fox of the University of Utah, who tracks national drug shortages. "That surpasses last year's total of 211. And it doesn't seem like there's an end in sight." The shortages involve a wide range of medications: cancer chemotherapy agents, anesthetics, antibiotics, electrolytes needed for nutrient solutions, and dozens more. One drug currently in short supply is used in critically ill patients to bring down soaring blood pressure. "We know this is a dire public health situation," Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Howard Koh told NPR, "and there have been delays in care." According to those who are tracking drug shortages, there have been more than delays. Some patients have died.