Medication Shortages Another Area of Concern for Hospitals

May 31, 2011
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Drug shortages in hospitals were somewhat of a rarity at one time. For many reasons (not all of them economic) a trend in the late 2000s continuing up to today notes a disturbing pattern of many pharmaceuticals whose usage permeates multiple departments in an acute care setting.

Drug shortages in hospitals were somewhat of a rarity at one time. For many reasons (not all of them economic) a trend in the late 2000s continuing up to today notes a disturbing pattern of many pharmaceuticals whose usage permeates multiple departments in an acute care setting. From the emergency department to the ICU, this problem is just beginning to percolate.[1] In fact, in the month of May 2011 alone, major shortages in a range of agents contributed to the over 90 such cases in the first quarter of ’11. Antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (already on an endangered species list in many hospitals due to increasing resistance patterns) lead the pack.

The major reasons cited? Product recalls (less of an issue with fewer NDAs), contaminated vials, demand fluctuations, and improvements on the manufacturing end (production plants). From an economic standpoint, lower profit margins for generics allows for less of an incentive for manufacturers to produce the low cost agents — creating a problem for their availability. Higher cost branded drugs may also create more of a problem during an availability crisis because substitutions may not render the same quality of care — representing a case for comparative research as a marker for quality. Although the overall numbers of deaths due to pharmaceutical shortages pales in comparison to the incidence of other more numerous causes of avoidable and preventable hospital deaths,[2] the issue of med availability is a compelling one that deserves increased scrutiny. | LINK

  1. As many as 211 drugs were listed as in short supply in 2010, three times more than in 2006.
  2. According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, two patients died last year because their substitute painkiller dosage was wrong – at the time there was a shortage of morphine.

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