U.S. drug shortages driving up healthcare costs Drug shortages affecting the U.S. healthcare sector are fueling precipitous jumps in the prices of many medications.

Physicians and healthcare providers have become increasingly concerned over the past 24 months about shortages of critically important medications, including those used to treat cancer and other serious illnesses. Hospitals throughout the U.S. have been affected by the shortages, with prestigious institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital and The Johns Hopkins Hospital not immune to such problems.

Drugs including the cancer treatment Doxil have become so difficult to locate that some healthcare providers are turning toward procurement consultants and secondary sellers as they struggle to ensure they have enough supplies to treat patients. Jenny Morrill has been battling ovarian cancer since 2007 and has witnessed firsthand how dire the drug shortages have become, The New York Times reports.

Morrill asserted that although she had responded well to Doxil during her course of treatment, her physicians encountered myriad obstacles as they sought to purchase the medical treatment.

"She said, 'The good news is that you're doing really well on this drug Doxil,' " Morrill recalled. "The bad news is that we have no Doxil to give you," she said.

Supplies of Doxil ran short last summer after the only facility in the U.S. that manufactures the drug encountered production problems. The effects of such a significant drop in supplies of critical medications have spurred swings in prices, prompting some healthcare providers to offset such hikes in cost by implementing business cost reduction initiatives.

Medication sourcing has become a buzzword among hospitals and other healthcare clinics in the U.S. Some institutions have hired additional employees or tasked current employees with the specific duty of tracking down medications. Exceedingly frustrated by the dearth of critical drugs, physicians assert many of the affected medical treatments have been around for years and are available in generic form.

American Hospital Association policy director Roslyne Schulman contended the medication shortages are unprecedented in scope and duration.

"This is very serious. This is a public health crisis. The shortage cuts across all treatment categories. It affects bread-and-butter drugs that hospitals have depended on for many years," she said.

Hospitals are being forced to use less effective – and often, more expensive – alternatives to drugs affected by the shortage, experts say. This has prompted many healthcare providers to overhaul spend management as they nimbly reallocate resources in their work to procure replacement therapies.

Federal lawmakers have held hearings on the matter, but public health experts assert the shortages will not be easily or quickly solved. Rather, they argue it will take a coordinated effort to help augment supplies and accrue critically important reserves.

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