The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Generic Drugs Missing

Jul 23, 2023

Many medical offices and patients have been experiencing big shortages in crucial and widely-prescribed drugs recently. In June, 93% of academic cancer centers couldn’t find enough carboplatin and 70% couldn’t find enough cisplatin—drugs long used to treat cancer. The same month, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported 137 drugs were in short supply, mostly generic drugs. Pharmaceuticals also in shortage include blood thinners, antibiotics, and ADHD pills.

The wholesale companies and pharmacy chains that buy medications from manufacturers and sell them to hospital chains and health care systems say these drugs are in short supply because manufacturers make fewer of them. As these wholesalers have consolidated and merged into ever-bigger monopolies, they drive down the prices they will pay to buy these generic drugs. Average prices for generics fell by more than half from 2016 to 2022.

Given how hard inflation hits so many people, prices going down for certain products should be a positive change! But in this profit-driven system the result is that manufacturers—which are also highly consolidated—stop producing them. For example, Teva, which makes 3,600 drugs, said in May it will switch from lower-priced generics to high-priced brand-name drugs and higher-priced generics, such as specialty drugs.

These profit-based companies are part of the capitalist health care system, a system that cares only for the health of their profits.