There was a somewhat horrifying article in the NY Times recently about some serious drug shortages in the US, especially for certain forms of cancer
. There are a few efforts underway to deal with the shortages, but as the article notes, it's pretty ridiculous that there are any shortages at all, since "the number of cancers diagnosed in a year was easy to predict." Of course, the real problem is that in a claimed effort to "protect" people, the FDA has made it almost impossible for competition to exist:
A crucial problem is disconnection between the free market and required government regulation. Prices for many older medicines are low until the drugs are in short supply; then prices soar. But these higher prices do little to encourage more supply, because it can be difficult and expensive to overcome the technical and regulatory hurdles. And if supplies return to normal, prices plunge.
Left out of this paragraph, but equally important, are patents, which clearly hinder such competition as well. We've discussed in the past how the FDA can often get in the way
of medical innovation. Even if it means well (and I'm sure it does), putting in place systems that make it too costly to create real competition does the exact opposite of its intended purpose.