Now It’s Shortages of Medical Drugs, Hospitals Say

Beverly K. Eakman – It was reported over the Memorial Day weekend that hospitals are experiencing a shortage of medicines. In researching the many news reports where the story appeared, there is more to it than meets the casual eye…

Turns out, this is not a new problem. According to Linda S. Tyler, Pharm. D., FASHP, Pharmacy Manager, Drug Information Services, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, the first drug shortages in the United States occurred in 1996, during the Clinton Administration, when data collection on the topic began. At the time, there were only five drugs affected, but that number rose swiftly to 20 drugs between 1997 and 2000, according to UUDIC tracking. In 2001 the number of shortages grew to 120, most of which were resolved by the following year because they didn’t rise to the level of adversely affecting hospitals and patient care. Today, that has changed.

Shortages are not only inconvenient, but expensive. Tyler wrote that “[c]hanges in drug supply can alter the way medications are prepared in the pharmacy, the way they are administered to patients, and, in some cases, whether patients receive medications at all.” She estimates that “many organizations spend between one-half and three full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel on the management of drug shortages. These extra FTEs spend their time investigating the reason for the shortage, finding alternative agents, working with wholesalers, finding alternative suppliers, compounding a replacement product internally, or communicating with other practitioners.”

The knee-jerk public response to this news is along the lines of: Do we make anything in this country anymore? Is there anything that is not still outsourced, imported, or subject to rationing?


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June 4th, 2011


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