Obama orders FDA to help reduce drug shortages

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WASHINGTON (AP) ? President Barack Obama is directing the Food and Drug Administration to take steps to reduce drug shortages, action he says will help stop a “slow-rolling problem” that puts patients at risk and raises the potential for price gouging.

Obama signed an executive order in the Oval Office on Monday instructing the FDA to take action in three areas: broadening its reporting of potential drug shortages; accelerating reviews of applications to change production of drugs facing potential shortages; and giving the Justice Department more information about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.

Patient deaths have been blamed on the shortages, which tend to affect cancer drugs, anesthetics, drugs used in emergency medicine, and electrolytes needed for intravenous feeding. Hospitals have been forced to buy from secondary suppliers at huge markups. Surgeries and cancer treatments have been delayed.

“Even though the FDA has successfully prevented an actual crisis, this is one of those slow-rolling problems that could end up resulting in disaster for patients and health care facilities all over the country,” Obama said.

The president ordered the new steps without congressional approval, saying his administration refused to wait for lawmakers to act on similar legislation pending on Capitol Hill. The measure is part of a White House effort to use executive action to get around congressional Republicans.