Drug shortage forces hospitals to revert to older meds

Shortages of drugs used in cancer care and surgery are forcing hospitals to take desperate measures.

Some hospitals revert to older medicines. While they can be as effective, because medical professionals are unfamiliar with them, improperly calculated doses pose a risk, the Los Angeles Times reports. So do different side effects from the newer treatments.

Other facilities have turned to secondary suppliers when their primary sources for drugs run dry. The downside is the secondary suppliers have forced hospitals to pay double or more for certain drugs if they don't qualify for volume discounts.

Six Provena Health facilities in Illinois pass products in short supply around from one hospital to another, according to a spokesman.

Denver Health Medical Center had to reduce the doses for some patients and deny therapy for others, ABC7 News reports.

As FierceHealthFinance reported in December, if your hospital is part of a group purchasing group like Premier's, you may be able to recoup some of the cost of purchasing an alternate drug at a higher price.

Some 150 drugs are in short supply, three times the number five years ago, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. A mix of manufacturing and quality-control issues and the consolidation in the pharma industry have contributed to the shortage.

"These are the worst shortages I have ever seen," said Thomas Wheeler, director of pharmacy for Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. "The most troubling aspect is that it is critical drugs for which there are limited alternatives."

To learn more:
- read the Los Angeles Times story
- here's the ABC7 News story