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Pharmacy director: Medication shortages present crisis for patients and health care providers

Pill Bottles Containing MedicationShortages of a cancer drugs and a variety of other medications is causing problems for patients and health care providers, Steven Ciullo explains on today's Health Link on Air radio program. (The show airs 9 a.m. Aug. 28 on WSYR FM-107.9.) Ciullo is Upstate's Director of Pharmacy Services.

Two hundred and forty-six medications were reported in short supply during the first six months of this year. "That's about a 7-fold increase in drug shortages over that period from 2006 to 2011," Ciullo says. "It truly is becoming a crisis. Patients are being affected. Health care providers are having to make decisions and rationing drugs including chemotherapy drugs that are affecting the outcomes of patient care."

He says shortages have become apparent over the past four or five years among chemotherapy drugs, medications for cardiovascular care, anesthesia and others. "It's a major problem across many therapeutic classes."

How is this happening in the United States?

Ciullo gives many reasons:

* Some drug manufacturers are changing their focus to maintain profitability.

* Health insurers are encouraging the use of generic drugs.

* In our global economy, pharmaceuticals now rely on work that is done overseas, where the Food and Drug Administration has less influence.

* Some of the materials necessary for making certain drugs -- glass necessary for injectable medications, for instance -- has been in short supply.

Ciullo has a suggestion for helping the situation. He would like to publicize which drug companies are not making enough of which drugs. "Hopefully that type of information will influence investors, because I think there are a lot of people who try to invest in companies that are profitable but are also ethical and making moral decisions," he says, noting that proposed legislation would require drug manufacturers to give advance notice before discontinuing a medication.

Hear Steven Ciullo's interview on Health Link on Air radio,

airing at 9 a.m. Aug. 28 on WSYR FM-107.9

Read the CNYCentral.com story.