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Drug Shortages Still an Expensive Problem for Hospitals

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, March 10, 2014

Hospitals are routinely forced to purchase substitute drugs, which is a costly proposition. Not all of those costs are direct, nor are they easy to tally.

Hospitals and health systems continue to struggle to manage the record number of drug shortages that have plagued the nation's healthcare system since the late 2000s.

While the FDA reported in February that the number of new drug shortages dropped significantly in the first three quarters of 2013 as compared to 2012, there are still more than 300 drugs that are chronically in short supply due to a laundry list of reasons, including the quality of active pharmaceutical ingredients, drug recalls, industry consolidation, quality control issues at manufacturing plants, and the lack of manufacturing line capacity.


See Also: Drug Shortages Exacerbated by Supply Chain Woes


Hospitals are routinely forced to purchase substitute drugs, which is a costly proposition. A recent survey from group purchasing and performance improvement organization Premier found that U.S. hospitals spent nearly $700 million between 2011 and 2013 to cover the additional costs associated with buying more expensive generic substitutes for shortage drugs—and that doesn't include the indirect expense of the staff time required to hunt down alternative supplies.

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