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"Essentially all of the drug shortages that occur in the U.S. arise in the generics market, where profitability is fairly low," Greg Conko, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, said by email in response to a request for comment from MedPage Today and ABC News.

Charles Bankhead's article, Economics at Heart of Drug Shortages, in MedPage Today quoted two other industry experts. Here's what they said: "The main cause of drug shortages is economic," wrote Mandy L. Gatesman, PharmD, of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and Thomas J. Smith, MD, of Johns Hopkins. "If manufacturers don't make enough profit, they won't make generic drugs."

This is a classic example of where the "race to free" is taking us. When sellers focus their customers' attention on price and customers respond by pressuring sellers for lower and lower prices, you end up with shortages like those outlined above.

Unfortunately that's a mild precursor of what's to come. In today's global economy and easy access to anything you want online, we're going to find opportunists who will fill the gap. These folks aren't going to care about health and safety. Nor do they care about the regulations that exist to protect your health.

Their production processes won't be as sterile as those of the manufacturers we've come to know and trust. They're also more likely to use some variation of the primary component of the drug you've been taking. Fillers, which add nothing to the effectiveness of the drug, will become a more significant component of the drug to keep costs down.

This is just one example of the world we're creating for ourselves. As sellers we have to take the lead and retrain customers to appreciate the value we provide. Better yet we need to quantify that value for them so that they can see what a bargain our offerings are, even at premium prices.

We, as sellers, also need to say no to customers who demand lower prices. That's what the generic drug companies are doing now. Too bad they didn't make that tack before it reached this stage.

As consumers, we need to be aware of the risks of low prices. Not just in regards to our safety, as in the case of drugs, but in terms of the enjoyment our purchases should afford us.

If we continue this race to free we're going to create misery for ourselves and others and we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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Latest posts by Dale Furtwengler
Dale Furtwengler
Dale Furtwengler is a professional speaker, author and business consultant. His latest book, "Pricing for Profit," is dedicated to helping organizations break the bonds of industry pricing.
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