Federal officials and lawmakers, along with the drug industry and doctors’ groups, are rushing to find remedies for critical shortages of drugs to treat a number of life-threatening illnesses, including bacterial infection and several forms of cancer.
The proposed solutions, which include a national stockpile of cancer medicines and a nonprofit company that will import drugs and eventually make them, are still in the early or planning stages. But the sense of alarm is widespread.
The Obama administration is considering creating a government stockpile of crucial cancer medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already stockpile antibiotics, antidotes and other drugs needed in the event of a terrorist attack or earthquake.
Legislation proposed in both the House and the Senate would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to demand that drug makers give early warnings of possible supply disruptions. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said the idea behind the bipartisan bill came after she found that the agency had prevented 38 shortages last year after getting early alerts of problems at drug makers.
More than half the recent shortages have resulted because government or company inspectors found problems like microbial contamination that can be lethal on injection. Others have occurred because of capacity problems at drug plants or lack of interest because of low profits, according to the F.D.A.