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December 23rd, 2010
11:44 AM ET

Shortage of medicines kills some US patients

Shortages of some 150 crucial medicines have killed at least four hospital patients, according to reports from  a patient safety group.

One of the hospital drugs in shortage is morphine, and two patients died of an overdose when hospitals substituted a more powerful drug instead, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP).

Another patient died when doctors had to use diluted epinephrine, which is also in short supply.  A fourth patient died when they couldn't get the antibiotic they needed to treat their infection.

"This is a big deal," says Michael Cohen, president of ISMP.

In an ISMP survey of some 1,800 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare practitioners, 80% said they'd had difficulty obtaining a suitable alternative for a drug that wasn't available.

About 150 drugs are currently in shortage, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, including sedatives, cancer drugs, and pain medications. The shortage has been going on since the spring.

In addition to the deaths, some surgical procedures and chemotherapy sessions have been cancelled because the necessary drugs weren't available, according to the ISMP survey.

"In some cases, it's possible to substitute one [cancer] drug for another, but [in other cases] there are not a great deal of options," says Dr. Richard Schilsky, a spokesman for the American Society for Clinical Oncology and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.

There are various reasons for the shortage.  Sometimes the source of raw materials for a drug has dried up.  Other times, quality issues have closed down a manufacturing plant.

In other cases, it's about drug companies and profits.

"If the costs associated with making a drug begin to outweigh the profits, companies may wish to discontinue production of the drug in favor of a newer, more profitable product," Valerie Jensen and Dr. Bob Rappaport wrote this summer in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If the drug you need isn't available, it's probably not worth it to go to a different hospital, says Dr. Walter Curran, executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.   "The cancer drug shortages are usually on a national basis so going to the other centers or other doctors is not of great value," he tells CNN.

The doctors and pharmacists we talked to said that if you're concerned, ask your doctor if the drug you need is in shortage, and if so, if there's an appropriate substitute.  Discuss with your doctor whether there are different side effects from the substitute, and if doctors and nurses are familiar with how to administer it.

If you find that a drug you need is in shortage, you can report it to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by sending an email to drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov.

"We know these shortages are having a significant impact on patients and we continue to do all we can under our current authority to help resolve them," says Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the FDA.  

Caitlin Hagan and Miriam Falco contributed to this report.


soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Fricsaid

    Those 3 fail to compare to those that died because they could not afford medication.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      What's the difference? If you CAN afford it, many drugs are STILL not available.
      I just took a look at the list. The DEA must be in 7th heaven for the opiates that are not available.
      But there are drugs used for advanced cardiac life support on the list as well.
      There are essential drugs on the list as well. Even Cipro!

      December 23, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
    • Commojoe

      Well, welcome to the era of Bozobamacare, where everything will be reduced cost or free, but simply unavailable more often than not, just like the Canadian socialized medical syste. Ain't socialism great! Let's have Bozobama socialize MORE of our great country's programs, so people can be denied OTHER things than just medicine and health care in general. You fools who voted for him got what you paid for. Enjoy it until we toos him and his socialism OUT in 2012.

      December 24, 2010 at 04:15 | Report abuse |
    • islandboy808

      @Commojoe
      Yes your right. Let's make medicine worse than it is now. Let's not try to change it. Let the whole country fall bellow the 37th rank by WHO standards.

      December 24, 2010 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
    • Alba

      Maybe we just sent most of what we had overseas to another Country.......as usuall...! This Country needs to start thinking of Americans again....! Alot has been pushed under the rug...alot of women on facebook w/out Domestic Violence resources or groups...Goverment has turned their back on us....small programs cut/hardly any health care left for the poor. Doctor that use to spend an hour with patient now spends 15 mins. I can go on...! who's listening anyway?

      December 25, 2010 at 09:07 | Report abuse |
    • sigmundfreud

      Commojoe:

      You really are an ignoramus. You can blame the US drug companies for the shortages.

      Guess what – life expectancies are greater and cancer survival rates are better here in "socialist" Canada than in the "free" USA. Are you sure you know what a socialist even is?

      Oh, and drugs are cheaper in Canada. Why? Because provincial medicare plans use their size and buying power to make damned sure prices stay down. It's called free enterprise.

      And guess what – major drug companies still have research and production facilities in Canada.

      So what you call "socialism" in Canada is free enterprise at work. What you call "free enterprise" in the US of A is monopolies shafting the public.

      Read Adam Smith. You will find what he wrote is the opposite of what the health care industrial complex in the US is practicing.

      December 25, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
  2. Conrad Shull

    Morphine in short supply??? Can't they get it from Afghanistan?

    December 23, 2010 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • StoopidIzAzStoopidDuz

      Yes, morphine is an opiate...but they have to manufacture it. It's not like they can just go and get all of the opium from Afghanistan and just give it to patients. What they give in medicine is synthetically produced.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Morphine isn't synthetically produced, it's processed from opium. Some is converted from codeine as well.
      But ALL morphine comes from opium.
      That said, one can have all of the opium in the world, but if no plant is processing it, one would still not be able to get morphine.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      They should get it from Afghanistan, perhaps if they were allowed to export it other countries for use in medicines that would help turn the country around.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Nick From Port Richmond, Philadelphia PA

      Morphine in short supply. There's a lot people in my neighborhood that have no problem finding it on the streets.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • Alba

      good one?

      December 25, 2010 at 09:10 | Report abuse |
    • sigmundfreud

      Commojoe:

      You really are an ignoramus. You can blame the US drug companies for the shortages.

      Guess what – life expectancies are greater and cancer survival rates are better here in "socialist" Canada than in the "free" USA. Are you sure you know what a socialist even is?

      Oh, and drugs are cheaper in Canada. Why? Because provincial medicare plans use their size and buying power to make damned sure prices stay down. It's called free enterprise.

      And guess what – major drug companies still have research and production facilities in Canada.

      So what you call "socialism" in Canada is free enterprise at work. What you call "free enterprise" in the US of A is monopolies shafting the public.

      Read Adam Smith. You will find what he wrote is the opposite of what the health care industrial complex in the US is practicing.

      December 25, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
  3. Eric of Reseda

    And of course, having a government agency assigned to manufacture these drugs, where there is no profit motive, is out of the question because that would make the U.S. a Socialist regime. So, let's just let Big Pharma dictate whether patients live or die based on the Bottom Line. Sarah Palin, do you now see where the REAL "death panels" reside?

    December 23, 2010 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • StoopidIzAzStoopidDuz

      AMEN!!!!

      December 23, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Of course. You NEVER want to let the government meddle in YOUR health affairs. Better to let big for-profit drug and medical monopolies dictate whether you live or die. If you let the market decide, you'll never go wrong. So what if people die along the way because keeping them alive is not profitable for the drug companies?

      December 23, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Let me see if I understand you, Chuck.
      You are saying that companies should produce their drugs at a loss to the company?
      So, if it costs two dollars per unit dose of a drug and one can get one dollar, the company should continue to produce it?
      I can tell YOU are not in business! Because, you'd be out of business in zero time!

      December 23, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • Todd A

      And therein lies the problem Wzrd1: For profit medicine and healthcare. That is why the government should be handling all medical needs.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Sir Craig

      No, Wzrd1, you didn't understand correctly. That or you never took a business ethics class in your life.

      No one said the pharmaceutical companies had to sell their products at a loss – that's retarded. You simply sell it for whatever profit margin you hope to get out of it, BUT YOU KEEP MAKING IT. If the hospitals refuse to buy the product and/or opt for the cheaper alternative that may or may not work, that is on the hospital. Drugs mentioned like the morphine and epinephrine are ALWAYS going to be bought, but perhaps not at the levels they used to be because of cheaper alternatives. THIS is what Chuck was referring to: Drug companies unilaterally stopping the production of a drug because it wasn't bringing in the profits they once did. It should be ABUNDANTLY clear to anyone with any sense, however, that not everyone can use the newer, cheaper drugs, and because the companies are refusing to make the old, less-profit making drugs, they have chosen to sentence these patients to whatever misery awaits them, be it death or a lifetime of pain.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • Squeeker

      You beat me to it! First thing I thought – yeah, we sure want to avoid any sort of "socialized medicine" because, well, that would be horrible! FEAR, FEAR, FEEEEEEEEAAAARRRR!!!!!!

      December 24, 2010 at 01:34 | Report abuse |
    • Get some Priorities

      So people who have chronic pain or dealing with severe pain with cancer cannot get properly treated but there is no end in sight to weiner-rising meds. Good one America.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
  4. Rob in FL,

    Pharmaceutical companies are creating this faux shortage in order to raise prices, similar to OPEC in 1970s, but now their playing with peoples lives.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Teri

      Exactly. That's all it is.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      So you are saying that these shortages have nothing to do with the massive jump in demand associated with an aging population? Perhaps a solution for part of the problem would be for non-profitable medications to be nationalized and profitable medications to still be private.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
    • Tea

      That's right. This is all a lie. Anytime you read a story that is showing faux concern for the public, 100% of the time it has to do with CONCERN FOR LOSS OF PROFITS. If they really cared about people treating their health problems, EVERONE would be able to have health care coverage like my relatives have in Canada and many other countries.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
  5. Baron

    Wait till all drugs are in shortage thanks to Obamacare and socialist medicine.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bugmenot

      and you actually believe the crap you spew

      December 23, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
    • mama panda

      We don't have to wait for "Obamacare and Socialist medicine," moron. The problem exists NOW!

      December 23, 2010 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • LASmartAlec

      I know: once everyone has access to healthcare we are all screwed.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Yeah, after all, we KNOW how every OTHER industrialized nation in the world, all of whom have that "socialistic medicine" have completely run out of medicines. Yep!
      That's why WE have the shortage and most of them don't.
      Why don't you try traveling some time, learn what reality is. I'll give you a hint, it isn't to be found on your twinkie encrusted sofa.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • Todd A

      Damn dude, you buy that republican/tea party crap in buckets don't you? You can't wait for that idiot Palin to run for president canm you? You betcha!

      December 23, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • WOW

      Its happening NOW STUPID! He is trying to control the OUT OF CONTROL pharmaceutical companies that are raping people and their wallets. Get a clue.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  6. FlowinEddie

    Interesting since our sons and daughters are over in Afghanistan helping to protect the poppy crop. C'mon people now, smile on your Brother, everybody get together, try to Love one another right now. Poppies, poppies, who has the poppies, Poppy?

    December 23, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fricsaid

      A buddy of mine has a whole back yard full of Orential Poppies. Can be purchased at most nursery's. 100% legal. :o)

      December 23, 2010 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Nice, so you can supply the morphine needed. Let's see it now!
      What about Cipro being in short supply, think those poppies will help with that shortage?
      Maybe those poppies can help with the sodium bicarbonate injection that is short too.
      Maybe the Vancomycin injection shortage can be helped with poppies?
      How about Vecuronium Bromide Injection?
      I'll give you a hint, without vancomycin, you get MRSA, you're SOL.
      And the rest of the drugs I mentioned are key for advanced cardiac life support. Better not have a heart attack!

      December 23, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
    • Fricsaid

      @Wzrd1.....didn't ask ya, but alright. 🙂 I was just making a statement dude, I wasn't proposing a solution.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      I have a bunch of poppies in my yard each year. I thought that they didn't produce opium. Isn't it just one specific type of poppies that makes opium?

      December 23, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
  7. steeve-o

    Now how can the raw materials for morphine become unavailable? We've got a heroin problem in Afghanistan, one of the countries with the largest US presence in the world right now. I bet we're burning poppy crops over there.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      Go read the list of 150 drugs that are in shortage. If you know anything about medicine, you'd be physically ill.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
  8. Sybaris

    You mean this all happened while private health care insurance is still the norm?!

    December 23, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ds

      oh my 3 people died out of how many patients no one ever say 3 people died out of 1 million patients

      What about the 10 people died from the relative bringing in a disease and 20 people died falling on the floor on the way to the can.

      People die and media try to exploit it

      December 23, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      ds, the difference is, these were preventable deaths. People who died due to a shortage of critical medications that we should NEVER be in short supply of.
      Perhaps when it's one of your family that dies because a drug that was commonly available but is now in zero supply, you'd grasp that basic concept.

      December 23, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
  9. chato

    It might be cheaper to buy the poppies from Afghan farmers than trying to destroy their crop.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LeadPoop

    Lets not forget the unwillingness of the drug companies to allow a third party to make the same drug for a fraction of the cost. It's all about the money and these crooks deserve to be in jail.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ds

      it is the fact the same 3 people die in the study of the drug and the drug companies just like the doctors have to build in the lawyer cost

      god forbid 3 people die from using the morphine because they are allergic

      December 23, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • ds

      what difference the cost it comes from obama stash

      December 23, 2010 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
  11. Matt

    Maybe Palin is onto something with the Death Panels....?!

    December 23, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Divo

    Eric – Sure, once the drug has been developed, I'm sure government could somehow steal the patent and mass produce it. Let's not worry about the Millions of Billions of dollars it might have cost to research and produce the drug, which also could have taken years. You know, let's just forget all of that and let government steal it. 'Big Pharma' makes billions from drug sales because it COSTS billions to produce. That simple.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • janelson

      Morphine wasn,t developed by anyone alive today and if it was developed by a drug company that still exists today they have more than recovered their "investment", same with many of the drugs on this shortage list: they are in short supply because they can no longer demand huge profits on these drugs.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • WOW

      Um. Pain meds are derived from natural means and were not invented here. I find it funny some of you morons that think that all knowledge of the world begins and ends with America. People have been treating pain for thousands of years long before rich balding white guys started capitalizing on it. Read a freaking history book.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse |
  13. Teri

    Amazing how some of these in short supply are very common and easy to manufacture, low cost drugs. Maybe this explains whey I went to CVS yesterday to get my birth control pills and they were out and couldn't get any in until next week. HA HA! Maybe if I get pregnant CVS will pay to raise my kid (just kidding.)

    December 23, 2010 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Bob

    When We (and we have) worry more about Money and big business than lives then there is no valid response. No matter who makes life saving drugs, the government or business there is no question of politics only LIFE. Those that disagree will change there minds quickly when THEY did the drug.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. maggie

    No point in "calling around" to see if available at another hospital or pharmacy in your area. They will call each other and borrow from each other to fill a patient's needs. NO one in the healthcare field would fail to do this; if not allowed to borrow, they would send patient to another store. Seen it happen many times in 25 years as pharmacy tech.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Marcus14006

    We will eventually be forced to embrace universal health care. IMHO, the sooner the better, but big business will put off the inevitable as long as they can. The debt is going to force us to adopt more efficient/lower cost paradigms. We just lived through and are living in the worst economic crisis since TGD. Housing prices are dropping. Watch out for: student loan defaults (backed by USA), credit card defaults, and a looming commercial property bubble. Hang on and strap in tight, it's going to be a wild ride. Riots in the streets-possible. "Alia jacta est" ("the die is cast") ("unstoppable") ("like a runaway train"), ad nauseum.............

    December 23, 2010 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ds

      universal healthcare is like education a race to the bottom so nobody has the drug

      because that is fair

      December 23, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  17. Ames Wolff

    What a poorly written and researched post. The hospitals should have been named...and the quotes from sources are applied as if they are cut and pasted from other interviews. Nice way to make a scare, CNN. Actually some antibiotics are currently in short supply at the retail level with some out patients waiting 24-48 hours for BRAND's such as Keflex, Omnicef and the like due to lots of winter infections making the rounds.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. cathstar

    If we weren't an overmedicated society, there would be no shortages. We should put an end to prescription drug commercials because they all say "Ask your doctor." People keep asking for and receiving more and more prescriptions.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mamudoon

      I don't think this is the case. The shortages are almost all for injectable forms of the medications, which are used almost exclusively in hospital settings for patients who cannot take them orally for whatever reason (such as needing to keep the stomach empty for surgery).

      I'm not a pharmacist or a chemist, but I do wonder why the injectables are in short supply but other formations are not. They don't seem to be more expensive to manufacture. I'd think that if anything, they'd be cheaper. I could be wrong, though. Maybe someone else knows more.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
    • Turtle Stew

      You're right. If someone's pinkie toe twitches there is a drug for it.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
  19. RodBinNC

    In order to make more profit, avoid inspections from the FDA, and close plants in the US, all of the major Big Pharma have their drugs made in China & India. 99.8% of all antibiotics are made overseas. I gather, we, as patients are just SOL if we ever get into a trade disagreement with China. Isn't Capitalism and Free Trade GREAT!!!

    December 23, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Apoorva

    Guys here in the USA ,I have noticed that the healthcare costs are too much and ppl who have already lost their job are at the mercy of govt/hospitals to treat them.
    It might have happened that these 3 were not well financially and hence lost their lives.
    The govt here is helping the insurance companies to fill their coffers.Otherwise how can one explain that I had to shell out 1000 dollars from my pocket for a common cold? Its a nexus here between govt,doctors and insurance comps

    December 23, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MissAnthrope

    Are you trying to say it took BILLIONS of dollars to research a synthetic for morphine? Something that has been around forever? C'mon.
    I know that there are many other drugs that fall into the shortage category, and that R&D costs millions, but MORPHINE????? Get real!

    December 23, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Robert

    It always starts with a small step before it gets worse... this is just the beginning!

    December 23, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. julius ceasar 77

    Cuba and the former Soviet Union manufactured drugs and had loads of great drugs to benefit their people....Or maybe not. Maybe the government can not manufacture anything. Maybe if the government price controls had not priced these drugs out of the market, the market would still produce them. Oh, I guess that is just folly! Everyone knows what a tremendous success socialism has been everywhere it is tried!

    December 23, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cat

      Communism is not socialism. For an example of how it works, check out the Scandinavian countries. Not to say they are without problems, but there's something to be said for working towards a common good and thinking of fellow citizens as supportive resources rather than people not worth trying to save.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  24. veronica waller

    Why every time people take medication they died from it?

    December 23, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dan Swanson

    Outsource meds and this is what you get. Greed has placed this country at risk, and it's not just meds that are in short supply. Once we are dependent on outsourced products we become vulnerable to foreign control.

    December 23, 2010 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. MissAnthrope

    So there is not one manufacturing plant in the world producing morphine? Right.
    I assume Canada is having the same problems obtaining meds, correct?

    December 23, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      Two seconds on Google shows that Canada has the shortage too. And the UK as well.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
  27. Cynic

    The US government and Big Business are the enemies of the people. My monthly health insurance is as costly as a mortgage on a house.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. JG

    This is a direct result of removing oversight in the name of profit. We need to get rid of all these greedy, money sucking businesses. Health insurance companies are the same thing. We need nationalized medical care with more government oversight, not less. Then we can move from a third world health system to one that is equal to the rest of the civilized world.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      I see, so we get rid of those big businesses. Who makes the medications then? Make them in the bathtub?
      The shortage of critical medicines is present here, in Canada and even the UK.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
    • Insight

      Wzrd1: You are severely short-sighted and ignorant. HIS POINT was that these companies need to be better regulated and called to task on their business practices. They are completely out of control. Its as if our health insurance companies are run by the Mob.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
  29. st

    Maybe we should look at the US and all the people misusing the drugs needed. Sure point your fingers at others it is easier.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GTSixtySix

      Yeah those cancer meds junkies are the worst.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
  30. Dave

    Not sure I understand how a shortage of morphine can kill someone. Sounds to me like the misuse of another drug is what killed people... therefore it was the ignorance of the treating doctor that ultimately killed the patient. Compare these 3 people to the hundreds of thousands that die every year due directly to the medicines they are taking.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      Actually, morphine is given for certain patterns when someone is having a heart attack. Don't give it, watch the patient do that dying thing.
      In the examples in the article, it WAS an error on the part of the treatment staff.
      Now, not having enough epinephrine is fatal for anaphylactic shock. Period.
      I reviewed the list of medicines that are in short supply and was nauseated. Drugs commonly used in surgery, antibiotics, vaccines are just a few. Sodium bicarbonate injection even!
      Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over!

      December 23, 2010 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
  31. tman

    Im a diebetic that spends over 300 dollars a month on medicine to stay alive. but vicodin cost 10 dollars. explain that.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wzrd1

      Easy. Some drugs are REAL cheap and easy to make. Others aren't.
      Look up the drugs you take and learn how they're made.
      Hydrocodone is very easy to manufacture. The only thing easier to make is morphine, which is fairly straight forward and conversion of codeine to morphine is trivial as well.
      And you'd HATE to see how expensive it is to make a NEW drug and test it to get FDA approval. Even if the drug costs pennies to produce, the testing process raises that price.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • GTSixtySix

      And? What is everyone supposed to get a home chemistry set and start making their own meds?

      December 23, 2010 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
    • Mamudoon

      As someone who has paid out-of-pocket for Vicodin when I didn't have insurance, I can assure you that it does NOT cost $10. Unless you're getting one or two pills.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • Pain Meds Work

      I am someone who has to work with my debilitating chronic pain. It never leaves my body. I sleep with it and wake up with it. My spine is crooked. I am forced to function with pain medication and I am very grateful to have it. It has no side effects for me and really knocks the pain down to a bearable level. Yet, I have to jump through hoops to get the medication I need to function because of the IDIOTS who abuse it that do NOT have pain. My pain meds are cheap but every time I go to the doctor, they want to push some new expensive other pill on me. There is a reason for that. Many people I know who have pain are finding it harder and harder to get proper treatment for it.
      Bottom line is this: Pain meds work for many with chronic pain and it is cheap. Drug Companies don't like this and would rather have the person on Cymbalta or some other garbage that is not designed for pain. It causes other problems and boom, you have to take another pill to counteract the first one. Its scary what they are doing.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
  32. Menwa

    Well if we are going to look at the profit/loss margin we also need to look at attorneys such as James Sokolov who are always on the television looking for people to sue pharmaceutical companies due to side effects that are clearly printed for all the medications. Each and every lawsuit costs money. If profit made from production of the drug is outweighed by loss due to lawsuits the companies will stop producing the drugs.

    It is all about profits in America, people's lives be damned!

    December 23, 2010 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Patricia Brown

    Very true about the many, many people who die because they can't afford the drugs!
    Also, my experience has been that morphine is a far better drug than dillauid (even though it is suppose to be 8x stronger than morphine) because it is not synthetic.
    Not that hard to make opium. Just need the correct poppy; the process is simple.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AGeek

      As someone who's had both morphine & dilaudid (IV) when waiting for ESWL surgery, I can tell you there is a HUGE difference between the two. If you've got pain on the scale of a kidney stone (fetal position, on the floor, and any movement is making you vomit), IV dilaudid was the only thing that worked to an appreciable degree.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
  34. Overtaxed32

    People, the obvious solution is to rush out and get as many prescriptions as possible RIGHT NOW!!!!!! Stop reading and do it! And remember, no matter what you do, never ever exercise or eat fruits and vegetables! Your MD, the pharma companies, and the insurance companies all have your best interest at heart. Stop reading and go get medicated NOW!!!!

    December 23, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. aces and eights

    This Obamacare is killing more people than it's saving.
    Maybe that was the original purpose.
    Also, if the doctors and nurses weren't pilfering so much of the painkillers for their own use, there would be enough to go around...

    December 23, 2010 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fricsaid

      Name one person that has been killed by "Obamacare." And let us remember that most of it is not even in effect yet. Damn people. I think your hate for a person clouds your judgement.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      @Fricsaid You're too kind if you think this isn't his best thinking.

      December 23, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • KD

      Considering Obamacare hasn't gone into effect, the answer to how many people have been killed by Obamacare is 0.
      Now, how many have been killed by for-profit healthcare would ASTOUND you.

      December 23, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Obamacare? No.

      All this hate because we have a half-black president.

      I hope the next president that comes along is mixed but we can't tell right away like Mariah Carey or something and see how people respond. Then a year into his presidency he announces that he is half mexican. Freakin hilarious.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
  36. GTSixtySix

    So... Any free market Republicans wanna explain how this is supposed to work? We have the ability to make life saving medications but, since there is little to no profit, people can't get them and they die. I'm interested in hearing some brilliant free market diatribes.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Rooster

    I'll bet you could pick this stuff up from Tyrone and Smoochie on the street. So where are they getting it?

    December 23, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Booster

      ...at your mother's house.

      December 27, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
  38. Dennis

    It's not a shortage. Someone is refusing to pay more. I don't know whether it's the famlies, the hospital or the insurance company. Enough $$$'s will fill an order.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Daniel

    Medicine aside, I just want to say that this was a very good article. Most of CNN's these days seem to lack the important information (on top of propper grammar and spelling).

    Even Wolfe Blitzer (noting his N.K trip) writes irrelevant and mundane articles...

    I bet articles like this one, and not Pierre, are what will bring CNN back to the level of honor and dignity that it once had.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. rachel

    I'm just confused as to how these people died of an overdose. shouldn't these doctors have known the appropriate dosage for a more powerful medicine?

    December 23, 2010 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Treachercollins

    I'm not totally sure about this one but I'm guessing the proximate cause of each patient happened to be a disease rather than lack of a medicine. To say that the lack of medicine rather than disease killed these patients is really a gross misunderstanding of the human condition.

    Let's see if we can juice this headline to make it even more heated! How about: "Extreme lack of oversight by government leads to cruel butchering of multiple helpless patients by greedy hospitals and ruthless drug companies!"

    I should be a CNN writer.

    December 23, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Juan

    How about we stop eating crappy foods, sell all our 4th and 5th tvs and pay for medicine ourselves. We cant expect the gov to fix all our problems..

    December 23, 2010 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tortuga

    I'll bet if you run down to the emergency room, illegal aliens are probably swimming in the stuff...and it's free!!!

    December 23, 2010 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tortuga

    aces and eights has a point though. I dated an R.N. for several years and it's amazing the amount of prescribed drugs never reach the patients. They may be getting an aspirin for all they know and wonder why they're still in such pain.

    December 23, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Tahni Marah

    Along with the powerful control that the drug companies seem to have in both access and cost, I also have to wonder how much this shortage might be due to our drugs being manufactured outside of the U.S. In too many ways over the years we might have totally "given away the entire store" and now have no where to purchase...I mean, what's manufactured in the U.S. any longer?

    December 23, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Stoprunning

    The GREATEST Health Care System in the World!111

    December 23, 2010 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. jkINC

    Don't be naive, in ALL cases it's about drug company profits.

    December 23, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Me

    So last week there was a shortage of drugs to kill a person. And this week there is a shortage of drugs that is killing people. C'mon. What's with all the massive pharmaceutical profits then?

    December 23, 2010 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Chris @WebMindSet

    Troubling. There are more instances where excess of medication is what kills people... not lack.
    Good points, though, and I'll be sure to check back.
    Chris
    http://www.PTMaryland.com

    December 23, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. AGeek

    "...companies may wish to discontinue production of the drug in favor of a newer, more profitable product,"

    Profits ahead of patients. Given how expensive *most* drugs are, I think a suitable solution is to simply put the CEOs up to a firing line. Start gutting them like dead cod, on prime-time national TV. Maybe add a Chairman or two and some large shareholders.

    There's a difference between a reasonable return on one's investment and being greedy. It's beyond time these people are reminded of this – the hard way. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. MMmmm.. bacon.

    December 23, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.