Drug Shortages Increasing at 'Alarming Rate,' Says AHA

John Commins, July 13, 2011

An American Hospital Association survey of 820 hospitals across the nation found that almost all of them reported a drug shortage in the last six months, and nearly half of them reported 21 or more drug shortages. 

That growing shortfall has prompted some patients to take less-effective drugs or delay treatment because of drug shortages, the survey showed.

"The number of drugs in short supply is increasing at an alarming rate and hospitals are working diligently to reduce the impact to the patients they care for," AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said in a statement Tuesday that came with the survey's release. "Clinicians need more notice about drug shortages so they have time to act to ensure that patient care is not disrupted."

Earlier this year Premier Inc., a hospital purchasing alliance, reported that the near-crisis shortage of drugs had reached a 10-year high. The lack of chemotherapy, sedation, and pain relief medications endangers patient safety and costs hospitals more than $200 million annually for higher priced substitutes, a Premier survey found.

The AHA survey found that in the last six months:
  • Hospitals report that they have delayed treatment (82%) and more than half were not always able to provide the patient with the recommended treatment
  • Patients got a less-effective drug (69%)
  • Hospitals experienced drug shortages across all treatment categories
  • Most hospitals rarely or never receive advance notification of drug shortages (77%) or are informed about the cause of the shortage (67%)
  • The vast majority of all hospitals reported increased drug costs as a result of drug shortages
  • Most hospitals are purchasing more expensive alternative drugs from other sources
John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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