Drug Shortage: A Story of Self-Inflicted Management Tragedies

My blood boils when I read an article such as the one that appeared in the New York Times yesterday entitled Supply of a Cancer Drug May Run Out Within Weeks, by Gardiner Harris. This is one of many articles that has appeared lately about the mounting crisis of drug shortages across the country. This time it is the drug to treat acute lymphoblasic leukemia, which most often strikes children ages 2 to 5.

The article quotes the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology saying that he hopes that the FDA’s hard work can help avert a crisis. The FDA is always brought into the middle of the political quagmire of pharma companies, medical professionals and patients. But the FDA is not the “bad guy.”

If you were to map the drugs that are in short supply to the FDA’s Inspection Observations, Warning Letters and Consent Decrees, you will find a long history of problems that would have given any reasonable management plenty of time to permanently solve the problems.

The truth is that the problems are self-inflicted. There is not one problem that cannot be solved with the right management and the right technical and scientific expertise to establish a capable manufacturing process and facility.

Quality Assurance is not totally off the hook. Often QA cannot see the forest for the trees. They strain the gnat and swallow the camel. Often they are busy policing the proper use of indelible blue ink that they do not see the cumbersome, non-value-added administrative activities that are choking the quality management system.

I read Mr. Harris’ article and though of my healthy grandchildren. Thank God.

My heart goes out to those patients who are dependent on life-saving drugs.

C’mon people get your act together!

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republished and adapted with permission from the QA Pharm

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