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Making drug price gouging a federal crime

Posted Dec 06 2011 3:50pm

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

By Kester Freeman
Former CEO, Palmetto Health

Thanks to groups like the Premier healthcare alliance, federal officials have been kept informed of one of the worst drug shortages impacting U.S. hospitals in recent history. Patient care is compromised when doctors do not have the drugs they need for patients and making matters worse, some companies are charging outrageous prices for medications that are in short supply.

Finally there is movement in Washington that may make it a federal crime to price gouge hospitals and healthcare providers who desperately need certain drugs for patients.

Senator Charles Schumer , D-N.Y., says he’s proposing a bill that that would give the U.S. Department of Justice authority to crack down on unscrupulous drug distributors who sell hospitals life-saving prescription medicines in short supply at huge markups.

The problem has escalated this year as shortages have dramatically increased for generic, injected medicines including those for cancer and anesthesia for surgery.

We have been discussing this problem for months. To take advantage of patients and hospitals in this way is outrageous and unethical. Schumer’s bill may be introduced next week. According to one report, it would allow penalties of up to $500 million for each case of price gouging. It sure sounds like it would help deter those committing this crime. Let’s hope others will come forward to support this measure and put an end to price gouging that hurts patients and their families.

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