The United States is facing a shortage of prescription drugs, ranging from antibiotics to cancer treatments. These shortages are putting the medical profession in the frequent position of deciding who will get the drugs that are in short supply and, more importantly, who will not.Physicians and hospitals always have had to make rationing decisions in times of shortage. But these decisions usually are made behind the scenes. A recent New York Times article about the drug shortages shines a light on the rationing that is occurring.
According to the article, the decision-making process varies considerably across institutions. For instance, in some hospitals formal ethics committees make these decisions. At others, these decisions are made by individual physicians, pharmacists or even drug company executives.