What's the Latest Development?

There is currently a national shortage of 180 different drugs that treat childhood leukemia, breast and colon cancer. What's more, many of these drugs are extremely cheap to produce, but therein lies the answer. More than half of the shortages are due to potentially lethal microbial contamination that have been found in the foreign plants which produce many of the drugs. "Others [shortages] have occurred because of capacity problems at drug plants or lack of interest because of low profits, according to the F.D.A."

What's the Big Idea?

As this case of drug shortages demonstrates, a medical industry driven by profit will cut corners at the expense of patients. The hospital buying cooperative Premier has recently received offers from "obscure drug wholesalers" looking to sell drugs in short supply at vastly inflated prices. This happens when speculators buy large quantities of certain drugs, such as those that fight breast cancer, which are produced in limited amounts because their sale value is so low. The shortages are worsened because of wholesalers' large buys and subsequent price gouging.