May 10, 2024 - Axios Events

Axios Event: Drug shortages problem will require policy solutions to fix low prices, shift market dynamics

Attendees enjoyed breakfast during the intimate roundtable discussion. Credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar for Axios

Attendees enjoyed breakfast during the intimate roundtable discussion. Credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar for Axios

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ongoing shortages of generic drugs have plagued the American health care system in recent years as a variety of complex factors around pricing, increased demand and supply chain issues drive scarcity in the market with no end in sight.

Why it matters: U.S. drug shortages reached an all-time high in April and continue to prevent many from accessing critical treatments ranging from chemotherapy drugs to ADHD medications.

  • Axios senior health care editor Adriel Bettelheim and health care policy reporter Maya Goldman moderated this roundtable discussion event, which was sponsored by Sandoz.

Experts agreed that this is a systemic economic problem that will require action from policymakers to fix, and that low prices driven by concentrated power among a few market actors are further exacerbating the issue.

What they're saying: "We need a set of policy solutions that correct that, that ratchet back the market power that sits in the middle of the supply chain, that gives the producers at the end of the supply chain the market power that they need to demand sustainable prices that enable resilient producing," said Christen Linke Young, deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans affairs on the Domestic Policy Council.

"We have been pointing to this for a number of years … some of this gets to buyer issues, to incentives and what people are paying, but we also can't ignore the role of government policies in this," said Craig Burton, SVP of policy and strategic alliances for the Association for Accessible Medicines.

Investing in shoring up reliable domestic pharmaceutical supply chains is also a key component of fixing the problem, which Center on Health Policy senior fellow Marta Wosińska said is a price that would be worth it to pay.

  • "There is no free lunch. If we want to have resilience and we want to have reliability in the supply chain, we will have to pay for it, but the amount of dollars that it would take to do that I think is pretty worth it given the harm that it results with patients," Wosińska said.

API Innovation Center chief operating officer Kevin Webb noted that boosting domestic manufacturing is in our national security and public health interest.

  • "There's probably a core set of molecules that we can all agree with: these are in our public health and our national security to bring back to that manufacturer," said Webb.

What's next: Congress and federal agencies are weighing how to resolve the issue, with the Senate Finance Committee most recently releasing a plan aimed at addressing the ongoing shortages.

  • Senior vice president of government affairs at Premier Inc. Soumi Saha said the package wasn't perfect in its current format, but called it a "good start" to thinking through solutions to incentivize all stakeholders in the supply chain process.
Go deeper