Drug shortages cost providers $200M annually

Ninety percent of hospitals and other healthcare organizations encountered prescription drug shortages during the second half of 2010, with at least 80 percent indicating the shortages resulted in delays or cancellations of patient care interventions, according to a survey by Premier Inc., a voluntary hospital and healthcare alliance.

The analysis found that the drug shortages were costing providers at least $200 annually due primarily to purchases of more expensive generic or therapeutic substitutes. Premier surveyed 311 hospital pharmacy experts representing 228 hospitals, oncology and surgery centers, outpatient and retail pharmacies, and long-term care facilities.

Over the course of a six-month period in 2010 (July-December), more than 240 prescription drugs were either in short supply or completely unavailable, and more than 400 generic varieties had to be back-ordered for five or more days, according to the survey. Forty-two percent of respondents indicated they needed to purchase more expensive products from a "gray market" vendor.

Many of the shortage drugs identified in 2010 have remained unavailable or in short supply this year--and may be increasing, Premier indicated. Most of the drugs in short supply are needed for sedation, emergency care and chemotherapy.

The drug shortages in part may be linked to current regulations, which do not require manufacturers to communicate drug shortages. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S. 296) that would require a type of early-warning system for drug manufacturers to warn the Food and Drug Administration at least six months in advance of discontinuing a product or to give immediate notification if shortages were anticipated.

For more information:
- see the Premier white paper (.pdf)
- read the Becker's ASC Review article
- see the Family Practice News article

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