A recent article in New England Journal of Medicine (ABC News report of same) has pulished a study clearly demonstrating that the non-availability of one of the "gold standard" pharmaceuticals called mechlorethamine (HN2 for short) used to treat Hodgkins lymphoma has become so scarce that many children who were being successfully treated with a cocktail of drugs that included HN2 had to be switched to a "plan B" drug, and many of these suffered a worsening of their cancer.
Why aren't HN2, as well as a number of other standard, proven treatments available? According to the NEJM:
"Limited manufacturing, lagging production time, and lack of profits from these drugs are contributing to the shortage."
In other words, the manufacturer(s) did not allocate the resources to produce the drugs because they weren't making enough money from them.
Do you imagine there will ever be a shortage of a drug that costs pennies to make, sells for dollars and is prescribed for millions, like the name-brand statins (e.g., Crestor®, Lipitor® or Zocor®)? Not in this lifetime there won't. Yet the efficacy of the statins is debatable (see a scholarly aticle here: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine), and some of their scary "adverse effects" are well documented. But they are highly profitable, so continue to be not just available but flogged to the medical community and, most evilly, to the general public through TV and print publication ads.
So there's your free market in action, folks: If it sells and makes enough money, you can have as much of it as you want, even if it might kill you. If it doesn't make much money, well, we'd rather make something that DOES make money, and if it means displacing something that might SAVE your life, too bad. Corporations taking the most profitable path regardless of the social consequences: it's what they do, it's what they are, and they can't help themselves.