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Obama order tackles drug shortages

Obama order tackles drug shortages
U.S. President Obama Monday signed an executive order the White House says will help reduce prescription drug shortages and fight price gouging. UPI/Brendan Smialowski/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama Monday signed an executive order the White House says will help reduce prescription drug shortages and fight price gouging.

In his order, Obama directs the Food and Drug Administration to expand reporting of potential shortages of some prescription drugs and to expedite regulatory reviews that could either help respond to shortages or prevent them.

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Obama's executive order also directs the FDA to work with the Justice Department to investigate whether potential shortages have led to illegal price gouging or stockpiling of life-saving medications.

"[Recently], we have seen how the potential of drug shortages for vital drugs, including some cancers, can really have an adverse impact on patients and those who are caring for patients," Obama said. "Sometimes we run out of or run low on certain types of drugs, and that drives up prices and it increases patient risk."

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While the FDA has been successful in preventing a crisis, "this is one of those slow-rolling problems that could end up resulting in disaster for patients and health care facilities all across the country," Obama said.

Congress has been trying to address this matter since February, but hasn't done anything yet, Obama said.

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"[We] we can't wait for action on the Hill -- we've got to go ahead and move forward," the president said in remarks just before signing the latest order as part of his "We Can't Wait" program of executive action without congressional approval since Congress failed to pass his jobs bill.

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"We'll still be calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that will provide additional tools to the FDA and others that can make a difference," Obama said. "But until they act, we will go ahead and move."

Obama said the order requires drug companies to "let us know earlier about the potential for drug shortages so that we can respond successfully."

If federal officials learn that prices are being driven up because shortages are worsening because of manipulations of companies or distributors, "we are making sure that we stop those practices," he said.

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"So there's a combination of tools that are going to be contained in this executive order that can make sure that lifesaving drugs are available," Obama said, "and if we start seeing shortages, that we're able to catch those ahead of time … ."

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