President Barack Obama Monday instructed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to identify and reduce the scarcity of necessary medications and he asked for new laws demanding that pharmaceutical firms report potential drug scarcities in the future.
“Congress has been trying since February to do something about this. It has not yet been able to get it done. And it is the belief of this administration … that we can’t wait for action on the Hill – we’ve got to go ahead and move forward,” Obama said after signing the executive order.
The move gives the FDA authority to intervene to resolve the problems that delay the release and adequate distribution of medications.
“The shortage of prescription drugs drives up costs, leaves consumers vulnerable to price gouging and threatens our health and safety,” the president said in a statement outlining the reasons for the executive order.
The FDA will broaden the detection and report on the potential scarcity of specific medications, will accelerate the procedures of requesting changes in the production of drugs that could become scarce and will give the Justice Department more information about cases of hoarding or speculation.
Last year, the FDA reported the scarcity of 178 medications and the agency said that this year it was still registering scarcities of several drugs.
The FDA has no legal authority to force manufacturers to continue producing a drug.
Under the prevailing laws, pharmaceutical firms are obligated to announce the decision to halt production of certain necessary medications only in cases where there is just a single supplier.
US hospitals have said that they are having problems acquiring certain anti-cancer drugs and in some cases they have been forced to resort to rationing or altering treatment regimens.
Obama, who aspires to be reelected next year, has begun to resort to governing by executive order after facing intractible resistance in many areas by the Republican Party and even some of his own Democratic party members in Congress.
Last week, the president issued executive orders aimed at easing the burden of student debt and making it easier to refinance a home.