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Obama Orders FDA To Curb Drug Shortages

File photo. (Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has signed another executive order, this one directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to reduce prescription drug shortages, which the White House says have endangered patients and led to price gauging.

“Recently we have seen how the potential of drug shortages for vital drugs, including some cancers, can really have an adverse impact on patients and those who are caring for patients, President Obama said at the signing Monday in the Oval Office. "Sometimes we run out of or run low on certain types of drugs and that drives up prices and it increases patient risk.” 

The new Executive Order instructs the FDA to take action in three areas: broadening reporting of potential drug shortages, expediting regulatory reviews that can help prevent shortages, and examining whether potential shortages have led to illegal price gouging.

According to the White House, these additional steps will help achieve some of the goals of bipartisan legislation currently in Congress that would strengthen the FDA’s ability to prevent prescription drug shortages in the future. The president supports the pending legislation.

What the executive action does not do, however, is give the president any new authority. White House officials Monday made clear that this action simply “enhances” and “amplifies” steps that are already being taken by the FDA to monitor and prevent drug shortages.

“The executive order does not grant us new authority beyond what the legislation on the books has already done,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon.

In addition to expediting review of drug suppliers and new manufacturing sites to prevent shortages, the administration also announced it is adding five new staffers to the FDA’s Drug Shortages Program and sending a letter to manufacturers to remind them to report the discontinuation of certain drugs.

Monday’s action is part of the president’s continuing “we can’t wait” campaign to take unilateral action to boost the economy without seeking the appoval of Congress, which has failed to support the president’s $447 billion jobs bill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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