Acting once again ahead of Congress, President Obama is directing the Food and Drug Administration to take steps to reduce drug shortages, an escalating problem that has placed patients at risk and raised the possibility of price gouging.

A White House official said the president planned to sign an executive order Monday instructing the FDA to take action. The order would be the latest in the president’s campaign to move on initiatives that do not require congressional approval.

Last year, the FDA reported 178 drug shortages, and the agency says it continues to see an increase in shortages this year. These scarcities tend to affect cancer drugs, anesthetics, drugs used in emergency medicine, and electrolytes needed for intravenous feeding.

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