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Nearly All Anesthesiologists Report Drug Shortages

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 19, 2012

The ASA said that 96% of survey respondents said they had "been forced to use an alternative drug to their preferred drug for a particular patient and procedure," and that 50% have altered a procedure to accommodate for the drug shortage. About 7% said they had postponed procedures and 4% said they had cancelled them.

Six survey respondents reported that the shortages resulted in a death of a patient, although it was unclear how many have patients died.

That could occur which when a rescue drug is needed, but isn't on the anesthesiology cart, said Robert Hertzka, MD, a practicing anesthesiologist in San Diego and former president of the California Medical Association, who was not involved in the survey. He emphasized he doesn't know why the patients of the responding anesthesiologists died.

Normally, he said, anesthesiologists should anticipate all the medications they'll need and have them ready and in place during surgery, but on rare occasions there's an emergent need for a rescue drug that because of its scarcity, has been removed from the cart and locked up.

 

In addition to deaths, the ASA said, the shortage has resulted in other "less optimal" outcomes for patients, such as post-operative nausea and vomiting. Two-thirds of respondents said they had noted these negative outcomes in their patients during this survey period, compared with 49.2% in the prior year's survey.

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