Drug Prices Too High? Sometimes, They’re Not Costly Enough

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For some of the most important drugs, prices may be too low.

You hear a lot about high drug prices. You hear politicians calling for lower drug prices. But you may not be hearing about how low prices contribute to drug shortages.

The drugs most prone to shortage are generic injectable ones, administered to patients in the hospital or a doctor’s office. They include anticancer agents, heart attack medications and anesthetics, many used in life-threatening, emergency situations. When such drugs are in short supply, they cause dangerous delays in care as hospitals seek alternatives. Even when good substitutes can be found — and sometimes they cannot — they may be less familiar to doctors, come with different side effects or not work as well, all of which pose risk to patients.

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