Undercutting Congress on Drug Shortages

by Tevi Troy

I had a piece on the homepage today on the Obama administration’s new FDA executive order and why it was unlikely to do much good regarding drug shortages. It turns out, though, that the EO is worse than ineffectual — it actually undercut bipartisan congressional efforts to address the issue.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.) issued a statement today saying that he was “bewildered” by the administration’s “claim that they can’t wait for Congress to address drug shortages.” According to Pitts, the House Energy and Commerce Committee had been waiting for a report promised to the committee by HHS assistant secretary Howard Koh on the subject of drug shortages. Pitts had taken the promise in good faith, and pledged to work with the administration on this issue in a bipartisan way.

In response, the administration blindsided Congress by issuing the report and the EO at the same time, rather than crafting a broader response based on the report in conjunction with a willing and waiting Congress. Next time Obama or his supporters claim that Congress is uncooperative, remember the White House’s unilateral action on drug shortages. 

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