Obama putting Casey drug shortages bill into effect via executive order

By:  Jonathan Riskind

When President Obama signs an executive order today attempting to address shortages of critical prescription drugs for diseases such as cancer, he effectively will be putting into effect a good chunk of a bill co-authored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

The bill co-authored by Casey and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and co-sponsored by GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, was unveiled in early September.

The bill requires drug makers to notify the federal Food and Drug Administration if shortages arise of critical drugs, particularly those often used by hospitals. The bill also requires the FDA to keep the public updated about shortages and what the agency plans to do to make sure enough drugs are available.

Backers note that FDA figures indicate that shortages of key types prescription drugs has soared in recent years, to 178 in 2010 from 61 in 2005. Some hospitals have had to resort to rationing, proponents of the legislation have said.

Today’s executive order is the latest such step by Obama in response to what the president says is congressional inaction on important issues such as his proposed $447 billion jobs bill.