Hospital group lobbies FDA over drug shortage

The American Hospital Association (AHA), concerned about the ongoing shortage of basic hospital staples, called for the federal government to increase the availability of saline and other intravenous fluids, AHA News Now reports.

The AHA is particularly concerned over the shortage of saline, although many other drugs are in short supply.

"We call on FDA to vigorously pursue strategies with the current manufacturers of these products and to seek out new suppliers in order to ameliorate the current shortage as well as prevent such shortages from occurring again in the future," AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack wrote to Food and Drug Administration head Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

Hospitals grappled with drug shortages for several years and the costs associated with the shortages continue to rise. Costs approached $230 million last year, up about 15 percent since 2010, with about 90 percent of hospitals nationwide experiencing some sort of drug shortage, according to Premier, FierceHealthFinance previously reported. The Government Accountability Office reports that drug shortages increased about 300 percent since 2007.

Manufacturing stoppages connected to quality control issues are one reason for the shortages. The current saline shortage is blamed in part by the need to rehydrate more patients during the winter flu season.

However, industry experts also attribute the shortage in part to much higher prices for basic supplies. Hospitals sometimes charge as much as $200 for a single bag of saline, which costs between 50 cents and a dollar to manufacture, as well as $100 or more to create and administer the intravenous connection.

Although the AHA acknowledged that the FDA is in talks with the four major manufacturers of saline IVs in the United States, it asked the agency to push the vendors to manufacture them at maximum capacity and seek out other domestic sources for supplies.

To learn more:
- read the AHA News Now article
- here's the AHA's letter (.pdf)