The Ugly Truth about Drug Shortages: Short Term Profits vs. Long Term Viability

Drug shortages are a dangerous reality that affects millions of patients worldwide. Medicines are a vital part of human life, and in times of need, a shortage of drugs can be life-threatening. It is a global problem that has puzzled professionals in pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and government for years. The reasons behind drug shortages are complex, but research has shown that the primary cause is the industry's focus on short-term profits rather than long-term viability. Companies focus on increasing production, reducing costs and boosting profits, often at the expense of future demand. In this blog post, we will discuss how the focus on short-term profits from the pharmaceutical industry contributes to drug shortages and how we can solve this problem.

Firstly, one of the significant causes of drug shortages is the industry's approach to meeting financial goals while neglecting long-term sustainability. The pharmaceutical industry is a business that exists to generate profits. Many companies focus on manufacturing drugs that are in high demand, produce quickly, and are profitable. Pharmaceutical companies are, therefore, more interested in ensuring shareholders' dividends than investing in research for future drugs. As a result, many medications may no longer be manufactured to increase profits and meet shareholders' expectations.

Secondly, short-term thinking has significant ramifications for the entire supply chain. Drug shortages can occur when essential inputs like raw materials, manufacturing plant capacity, or labor become scarce. In such scenarios, the focus on short-term profitability dominates, leading to the neglect of other necessary factors. The financial management of pharmaceutical companies follows a profit model rather than focusing on the broader healthcare system's needs.

Thirdly, the reduced profitability of some medicines and drugs has led to a reduction in their manufacture and supply. The cost of producing some drugs may be too high, leading to a reduction in production to cut costs, or entirely stopping manufacture altogether. For instance, generic drugs, which are essential for public health systems worldwide, have low margins and, therefore, less attractive to many pharmaceutical companies. As a result, companies' prioritize making drugs that are more profitable, leading to a shortage of critical medicines.

Moreover, Drug shortages also occur due to manufacturing issues. Most pharmaceutical companies have outsourced their production to low-cost countries in an attempt to increase profits. However, the quality of drugs produced, the skills of the workforce, and the compliance of regulatory frameworks in outsourced locations differ significantly leading to quality issues, reduced stock, and sometimes, recalls of products. This can lead to halting the supply of specific drugs to patients that are currently manufactured in those locations.

In conclusion, drug shortages are a significant problem that presently threatens global public health. The predominance of short-term thinking by the pharmaceutical industry is a primary contributing factor to the crisis. The industry's focus on profitability often leads to reduced production of life-saving medications and neglects research and development of future drugs. As societies become more vulnerable to the consequences of drug shortages, it is imperative that pharmaceutical companies approach their work with a long-term outlook. Prioritizing profits at the expense of public health is ultimately unsustainable. Instead, the goal should be to work towards a sustainable and responsible approach to business practices. By encouraging collaboration between stakeholders and governments, we can work towards ensuring a reliable and consistent supply of vital medicines to all who need them, now and in the future.