Some good news on drug shortage--finally
Covis Pharmaceuticals' business model is to acquire distribution rights to low-volume drugs
The ongoing crisis in short-supply drugs, which went from background noise to a top-level problem for many hospital networks over the past year has not been “fixed,” by any means. The current list, available at the Am. Soc. of Health-System Pharmacists,* has 213 entries. But there is some movement, with a new company, Covis Pharmaceuticals (Cary, NC), solidifying supplies for some of the drugs. The company announced in late March that it is now supplying Zantac (ranitidine hydrochloride) for injection, and has aggressive plans to address other short-supply drugs.
“We have a unique business model,” says Bill Collins, CEO of the company, which is the US arm of Covis Pharmaceuticals Sarl, in Zug, Switzerland. “We will acquire the rights to branded drugs that have gone off-patent, but remain critical therapies in acute-care markets.” The company has added Zantac for injection (introduced by GSK) to a list that includes Lanoxin (digoxin), Fortaz (ceftazidime) and Zinacef (cefuroxime), and is on the hunt for other brands.
It is common for branded pharma companies, once a drug has gone off-patent, to continue to manufacture the branded formulation, but usually at a drastically reduced scale (and price) due to the generic competition. Over time, those brands become something of a neglected product, or one whose production gets shunted around as the branded company allocates resources for newer, higher-volume drugs. All this would be ho-hum business variations, except when the generic manufacturers run into their own problems.
No quick fixes
Finally, a group of Congressmen (Senators Tom Harkin and John Rockefeller, and Rep. Elijah Cummings) committee has investigated charges of drug hoarding or price gouging by secondary distributors, but aside from finding alleged irregularities such as self-dealing in drugs (which is illegal, depending on the jurisdiction in which the irregularity occurred), no smoking gun has been found.