On to the myriad of problems facing the United States add -- a shortage of vital medicines.

U.S. Government officials and Congressional lawmakers, along with drug industry and doctors' groups, are scrambling to find remedies for critical shortages in a number of drugs that treat life-threatening illnesses, including bacterial infection and several forms of cancer, The New York Times reported Saturday.

To-date in 2011, at least 180 drugs that are critical for treating childhood leukemia, breast cancer, colon cancer, infections and other diseases, have been declared in short supply -- a record, officials say.

As one might deduce, prices for some drugs have surged as much as twentyfold. Equally significant, trials for selected clinical experimental cures have been delayed because the studies must also offer older medicines that cannot be reliably provided.

National Stockpike In Planning Stage

Proposed solutions include a national stockpile of cancer medicines and a non-profit company that will import drugs and eventually make them are only in the initial planning stages, The Times reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said hospitals are running out of many key drugs, including chemotherapy medications such as Doxil. The shortage has another ripple effect: it has created a huge gray market in which some medications are marked up more than 600 percent.

This is a major crisis ... and we will be hearing more about it, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on CBS's morning news/talk show The Early Show on Saturday Morning. Usually, when you talk about shortages, it's either one of two things, or both, supply or demand. In this case, it really seems to be an issue with supply.

What's more, Dr. Ashton added that the gray market, is not a long-term solution.

We try to discourage people from doing that because you don't know if the medication is counterfeit. You don't know if it's contaminated or has been handled or stored improperly, Ashton said. In large measure, those types of gray market dealings are probably legal, [but ] they're also probably sleazy, and they may be dangerous.

Political/Public Policy Analysis: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently stockpiles antibiotics, antidotes, and other drugs needed in the event of a terrorist attack or earthquake.

The Obama administration is considering creating a stockpile for crucial cancer medicines.

Based on the growing list of critical drugs that are short, the view from here argues the program should be expanded, and in a big way: the nation should have in place a system that back-stops pharmaceutical companies so that when a critical drug supply falls below a certain level, the federal government steps in. It's not a case of being short oranges or bananas -- we're talking about life-threatening medicine shortages -- which underscores the need for a public policy solution.