Pubdate: Tue, 06 Mar 2001
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2001 Charleston Daily Mail
Contact:  1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301-2835
Author: Richard S. Kerr, MD
Note: Kerr is chairman the Libertarian Party of West Virginia


The federal government's war on drugs has created yet another set of 
innocent victims.

A recent anesthetic shortage was aggravated and prolonged by policies of 
the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.

In December, when ESI-Lederle halted production of a widely used 
intravenous anesthetic, fentanyl, hospitals around the country faced an 
anesthetic shortage. Hospitals rationed their dwindling supplies. While 
other drugs were substituted for fentanyl, anesthetists complained that 
substitute drugs do not have fentanyl's smooth, predictable anesthetic action.

The shortage need not have been so long and severe. Pharmaceutical giant 
Abbott Laboratories also makes fentanyl. Abbott could have quickly 
increased production to meet demand.

But the FDA and DEA impose limits upon the amount of any narcotic a company 
may produce. It took about a month of bureaucratic fumbling for Abbott to 
get permission to increase production. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans 
received suboptimal anesthesia.

Shifting, unpredictable, often arbitrary FDA manufacturing standards have 
also created shortages of some antibiotics, painkillers, estrogens and 
critical radiological pharmaceuticals.

Fearing retaliation from the FDA and DEA, most drug companies refuse to 
talk about the government's inefficient and capricious regulation of the 
pharmaceutical industry.

But just as thousands of Americans have died because of the FDA's tardiness 
in approving life-saving drugs, so thousands endure needless suffering 
because of government-induced drug shortages.

Libertarians have long called for ending the unwinnable war on drugs and 
for ending the FDA's stranglehold on pharmaceutical production.

The drug war has fostered street violence, wrongful imprisonment, a 
trashing of the Constitution, and police and judicial corruption. Now it 
affects the quality of medical care.

What's next?

Richard S. Kerr, M.D.
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