Legislation is now pending in Congress that would penalize purveyors of drugs to hospitals that mark up their prices far above market rate, reports the Associated Press.
The bill, which will be introduced next week by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y), addresses a persistent shortage of drugs that has been hitting hospitals hard in recent months. Many are either paying way above market price to procure a steady supply or postponing procedures. Shortages have cropped up among cancer drugs and certain injectible anesthestics, with more than 250 types currently reported to be in short supply. At least 15 patient deaths since 2010 have been linked to the shortage. It has cost hospitals about $400 million in the past year.
The bill would make price gouging for drugs sold to hospitals a federal crime and call for up to $500 million in fines, notes the AP.
"Forcing hospitals to buy life-saving medications at outrageously inflated prices is unquestionably unethical, and with this legislation it would be illegal, too," Schumer said in a statement.