Healthcare Rationing 2016





I remember stories from my parents about rationing during World War II. Many supplies and products were needed to support the war effort so the number of items available to the general public was reduced with the extra going to the armed forces.


If you wanted a new car, you needed not only the money, you also needed the requisite ration coupon. Same for things like gasoline, meat, butter, firewood, nylons and many more.


Today our rationing is hidden but present nonetheless when it comes to who is entitled to be treated with a particular drug that happens to be in great shortage. Many doctors and hospitals now struggle with how to ration necessary drugs among equally ill and deserving patients. Drugs for various cancers, antibiotics, painkillers, anesthetics and about 150 other vital drugs are in shortage, according to an article in the New York Times, January 29, 2016.


The article follows doctors operating on and treating many patients at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. They tell of being forced to ration available drugs. Some have systematic approaches, some are more case-by-case. Patients who lose out in the lottery frequently are not aware of the situation and often are receiving other medications that are second best.


Why are there shortages? If demand is there, why aren’t the drug manufacturers increasing production in order to sell more product? The article doesn’t offer a good explanation of this. Implicit is the notion drug companies fail to satisfy need in order to keep prices higher. That must be an interesting staff meeting, e.g. let’s let a few more pediatric cancer patients die so our fourth quarter will look better.


This is a horrible system. It is stunning what we will tolerate. Of course we’re told the good news is pharmaceutical companies are recording record profits. That gives them more opportunity to produce a limited amount of a new drug that you won’t be able to get. But that’s OK. You couldn’t afford it anyway.
Call us. We must do better.


William Faris, JD
Chief Executive Officer

Posted in OMCA