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| Grewal Law, PLLC

According to a recent survey released by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, hospitals will buy back door drugs in times of desperation. Amidst rising drug prices, hospital purchasing agents and pharmacists are turning to so-called "gray market" vendors or those drug suppliers who operate outside of official channels.

In the survey of 549 hospitals, approximately half reported that they had purchased from a gray market vendor in the previous two years. Pressures from doctors and desperate patients have prompted the growing dependence on the unofficial drug market, where drugs are obtained from uncertain sources and marked up to an average of 650% of the original price. While purchasers may be aware of the ethical implications of buying from gray market vendors, they may have a difficult time turning down medications for desperately ill patients when drugs aren’t available elsewhere for purchase.

Federal Food and Drug Administration officials have struggled with the shortages, but have no power to prompt drug manufacturers to produce more of the critically needed drugs. The FDA says that the shortages are due to a variety of factors including lack of raw materials, manufacturing problems, production delays, or simply pharmaceutical companies’ refusal to continue making drugs. In turn, gray market vendors monitor the shortages and capitalize on the vulnerable supply chain. Until the FDA has the power to more aggressively address the problem, gray market vendors will continue to exist.

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