Drug shortages worry healthcare industry workers, FDA  The U.S. healthcare industry is set to take on millions of additional patients over the next five years as the historical healthcare bill takes shape. With health care providers being pressured to squeeze profits and increase productivity, shortages of medications are impeding their progress, according to a recently published report.

Medicines that treat scores of illnesses, ranging from cancer to the common cold, have been in short supply over the past year, the Washington Post reports. In fact, 211 medications became scarce in 2010, more than triple the amount from 2006. Through the first three months of this year, shortages of 89 medicines were reported, putting the country on track for nearly 360 shortages this year.

Patients suffering from certain forms of leukemia and lymphoma have been hardest hit by the supply disruptions as cytarabine, a drug used to treat the cancers. "It's a crisis," affirmed University of Utah's manager of drug information, Erin R. Fox. "Patients are at risk."

While the reasons for the supply disruptions are myriad, including the consolidation among pharmaceutical companies, a rise in raw material costs and subsequent shortages and equipment problems, the problems have become more pronounced over the past five years, analysts assert.

"The types of products we're seeing shortages of are really concerning," asserts Valerie Jensen of the Food & Drug Administration. "This is affecting oncology drugs, critical-care drugs, emergency medicine drugs. We're doing everything we can under our current authority to try to deal with this situation."

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