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CNN Today

Drug Shortages Becoming National Scare

Aired January 15, 2001 - 4:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Drug shortages have gained national attention recently, as a medical and a public health concern. Some say it is a growing phenomenon, with even common drugs sometimes temporarily unavailable. CNN's Jim Morelli takes a look at what is behind this problem and the efforts to solve it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MORELLI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It should be easy to get a prescription filled, but increasingly, pharmacists say it's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem is I didn't get any of my drugs today so I don't know where I am right now.

MORELLI: Pharmacist Robert Skenderian says he's even run short on common drugs, such as this asthma medication, Albuterol.

ROBERT SKENDERIAN, PHARMACIST: We didn't run out, but what happened was I wound up getting gouged as far as the price of them is concerned.

MORELLI: One congressman says price manipulation is behind most of the current shortages.

REP. MARION BERRY (D), ARKANSAS: This whole problem stems from the accomplished goal of the prescription drug manufacturers worldwide to make exorbitant profits.

MORELLI: We found no drug manufacturer willing to discuss product drug shortages on the record, but a pharmaceutical industry source told CNN shortages can happen for good reasons: such as the inability to procure manufacturing ingredients. Manufacturing difficulties are the stated reason behind a shortage of the drug Isoproterenol. It's used in hospitals to treat, among other things, shock. But the biggest shock lately is how difficult it is to keep in stock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know what's going to happen when we can't get the drug.

MORELLI: And it's not the only drug hospital pharmacies have to worry about. Nearly every day, orders at this hospital come back from the wholesaler unfulfilled, even for such simple things as antibiotics.

Pharmacists say shorter-term drug shortages don't appear on the FDA's running drug shortage list. The agency agrees more drugs seem to be running short, but says all the agency can really do to help is find alternate sources.

Jim Morelli, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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