Fighting the Shortage in Medications

January 5, 2012 Updated Jan 5, 2012 at 6:30 PM EDT

By WKBW News

January 5, 2012 Updated Jan 5, 2012 at 6:30 PM EDT

Buffalo (WKBW) It is a national problem that is hitting close to home, medication shortages of sometimes life-saving drugs. In response, Senator Chuck Schumer paid a visit to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Thursday to discuss that exact problem.

"If you can't get the drugs you need and you have to substitute other drugs, it's not as good. It really hurts medical care throughout our country," Senator Schumer said.

"In 2011 there were 267 instances in which drugs relatively quickly became unavailable," President and CEO of Roswell Park Dr. Donald Trump said.

The reasons for a medication shortage include drug companies who simply stop making certain drugs unannounced, rising demand, and third parties who mark-up prices on these vital medications.

"Some of the drugs have been shown to extend life and are unavailable. Some of the medications used to make surgery easier and more tolerable for the patients or pain relief after surgery are unavailable. So these are real disruptions in quality care," Dr. Trump said.

Now Senator Chuck Schumer is stepping in, supporting legislation that would give more advanced notice to pharmacies if a company is changing its production of a certain drug. It would also cut out third party dealers altogether by making profiteering off of medications illegal.

"A place like Roswell is going to get the drug they need. Might they have to delay an operation or procedure? Might they have to pay a whole lot more? And if we allow these shortages to persist, it could get worse," Schumer said.

Senator Schumer says he expects the legislation to pass, but he has gotten a small amount of push-back from the pharmaceutical companies. To them, Schumer responded "too bad." He says it is an issue that is too important and affects too many lives to go unresolved.