An alarming trend is emerging across the nation. The American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) and other organizations have identified a major shortage of medicines.
A shortage of medications can adversely affect patient care, as the use of alternative drugs, dosage strengths or dosage forms increases the risk of error.
According to MSNBC, the shortages are quickly leading to massive costs aimed at solving the issue – up to $216 million, nationwide. The Federal Food and Drug Administration points to manufacturing problems, production delays and firms who simply stop making drugs as key causes of the shortages.
An online study about drug shortages conducted in July 2011 by AHA found that 99.5 percent of hospitals reported one or more drug shortages in the last six months, and nearly half reported shortages of 21 or more drugs. Eighty-two percent of those hospitals have delayed patient treatment or have had to modify patient treatments due to the shortages.
In a different study by the ASHP, results showed that more than 80 percent of hospitals were low on three top vital drugs. Both studies showed a persistent problem of shortages with drugs for basic treatments, including pain relief and sedation, antibiotics for infections and cancer medications.
The number of drug shortages in 2010 was 211, according to the University of Utah – the highest number ever recorded in a single year.
Congress has proposed the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act, a bill designed to require drug companies to notify facilities ahead of time or any anticipated shortages.
While this is a start, this persistent problem is still far from solved. The time spent by pharmacists and pharmacy staffs to try and manage the drug shortages has tripled, and health care professionals are scrambling to provide adequate care for their patients.
As healthcare organizations and the government struggle to find a solution to this ongoing problem, doctors, nurses and pharmacists continue to persevere on the front lines, with a goal of high-quality care for their patients.
As the drug shortage problem in the U.S. persists, check the MedPro blog often for the latest news and updates.