Hospital Drug Shortages Reach 10-Year High, Cost Hospitals $200M Annually

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , March 30, 2011

"For anyone struggling with cancer, the last thing they want to hear is that they might lose access to essential medications," Klobuchar said. "These shortages are approaching crisis proportions as life-saving and medically necessary drugs are running low or even running out."

"I don't think it's that intrusive to simply ask these drug companies to give the FDA a warning when something has changed – either they project that they're going to stop making a drug or there's a shortage of raw materials that could result in a drug shortage – so the FDA can start early on looking for alternative suppliers, either in our country or in other parts of the world, and notify the doctors and pharmacists that this is coming," she said.

The shortage also has the potential to create scenarios for drug dosing errors and near misses, she added. "You can imagine when you're up to the wire, you can't find the drug, and people are calling all around the state for distributors."  In a pinch, she said, pharmacists find creative ways to solve the problem, "but this is no way to run a system."

She added, "Right now pharmacists and physicians are the last to know that a shortage is coming. Sometime they find out right before a patient is treated. That's just not right."

Among the survey's findings:

• 89% of the experts said they experienced shortages that may have caused a medication safety issue or error in patient care, with 53% saying that occurred more than six times.
• 80% experienced shortages that resulted in a delay or cancellation of a patient care intervention, and 34% reported the shortage occurred more than six times.
• 98% experienced shortages that resulted in an increase in costs.
• Use of "just-in-time" inventory practices, in which providers stock leaner quantities to save money or to avoid expired waste, as well as stockpiling by end-users anticipating shortages, can exacerbate the problem.


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