DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado lawmaker is taking a shot at critical drug shortages.

Rep. Diana DeGette wants to mandate an early warning system. She told CBS4 health specialist Kathy Walsh her bill would help prevent sudden shortages of lifesaving medications.

The current list of drug shortages is eight pages long. Last week President Obama asked drug companies to voluntarily report pending shortages to the Food and Drug Administration. DeGette’s bill would go further.

“It’s been quite difficult just to have cancer, and then to be told that there’s no drug is just phenomenal,” cancer patient Jean Murphy said.

Murphy’s story is sad but true. This summer she started on chemotherapy to treat her Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

“It was working with great results and no side effects,” Murphy said.

But two treatments in the drug Doxil was suddenly scarce.

“I’m too tired to be angry,” she said.

But Murphy is frustrated and she’s not alone.

“It’s really insane that the most civilized country in the world has patients like Jean who’s in the middle of her cancer treatment and suddenly she can’t get a drug,” DeGette said.

A critical shortage of 233 medications for cancer, infection and other ailments has doctors scrambling to find substitutes.

“If we had a little bit of forewarning everybody could work together a little bit better,” Dr. Shawn Dufford with Saint Joseph Hospital said.

DeGette is hoping to mandate that early warning. She’s co-sponsoring a bill requiring drug manufacturers to notify the FDA of any disruption in the production of a drug at least 6 months in advance.

“You know cancer doesn’t just strike Democrats or Republicans or Independents, it strikes all Americans,” DeGette said.

DeGette is hoping the bipartisan legislation will pass quickly and sick people won’t suffer.

DeGette’s bill includes penalties. A drug maker would have to pay up to $10,000 for each day it fails to contact the FDA.

DeGette is optimistic the legislation will pass.


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