Hospitals scramble to avoid drug shortages
Reading Eagle (PA)
"Now we talk about it daily, and we talk about multiple shortages," said Wamsley, pharmacy clinical coordinator for the hospital.
Wamsley doesn't have to deal with shortages of critical drugs often, but there still are hundreds of ongoing shortages she, her staff and suppliers need to manage behind the scenes so patient care isn't affected.
Drug shortages can be a significant risk to public health and can disrupt medical care. To handle the issue, hospitals have added backup inventory of important drugs, restricted use of certain drugs and found alternative medications.
Nationwide, the shortages have delayed and canceled medical procedures, increased the risk for errors and cost medical providers, according to a
Locally, drug shortages haven't affected surgeries or patient care, but staff are spending more time coming up with solutions and educating fellow staff.
When preferred medications run low,
New drug shortages started increasing significantly in 2007, peaked in 2011 and decreased by almost half by the end of 2013, according to the
Pharmacists, nurses and medical staff have worked to make sure patients receive the necessary care, said
Shortages don't necessarily mean a pharmacy is out of a drug.
It's not uncommon for a particular antibiotic or generic injectable drug to be in short supply, but drug shortages have increased in the past number of years.
"This really isn't anything new, but in the last five years it's become more profound," Jones said.
Some drug shortages are more critical because they're used by so many patients. In the past few weeks,
To handle the shortage, the system researched which departments use the most saline and looked for alternatives. The health system normally buys IV drugs through a distribution center, but recently it has gone directly to manufacturers to make sure the orders keep coming.
Local hospitals may have to resort to a medication used before the short-supply drug was available or a different form, such as an injectable or oral version. Sometimes an alternative drug in the same class can be substituted. If there are few alternatives, then supplies are restricted.
The pharmacy department receives calls and faxes offering hard-to-find drugs, but the hospital only purchases through pedigree drug manufacturers and its wholesaler, Wamsley said.
Along with finding alternative drugs, the pharmacy staff needs to work with doctors and clinical staff to make sure they know what alternatives are available and how they should be used.
Early detection is key. If there is a notice about a shortage,
Drug shortages have dropped, partially because of a law enacted in 2012 requiring early notification about shortages, said Hill, the lobbyist for the pharmacists group. The
"What we're hearing is a lot of these generic (drug) companies are reinvesting in new technology and new facilities, but it's going to take some time before they're fully operational," he said.
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