Drug shortages force hospitals to dilute, ration meds

As more than 210 drugs remain scarce, hospitals are scrambling to mix drugs and ration medications during one of the worst drug shortages in American history, The Washington Post reported.

Hospital pharmacists now spend an average of eight to nine hours a week managing drug shortages, up from only three hours a week in 2004, according to the article.

And with no mechanism in pace to give providers advance warning of shortages, pharmacists are forced to dilute drugs with higher concentrations into smaller doses and locate alternatives. "It's very, very time-consuming, and it involves a lot of people," Ann Breakenridge, an assistant pharmacy director at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, told the Post. "It impacts operations tremendously."

To quickly remedy shortages, hospitals often mix drugs for their own use, which increases supplies while reducing the risks of medication errors, noted the article.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Senate committee has released a bipartisan proposal to address the chronic drug shortages that have been affecting care at the nation's hospitals. The draft report, issued by the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, would require drug manufacturers to notify the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services of any imminent interruptions or discontinuations at least six months before they occur, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

The American Hospital Association yesterday praised the plan as "a significant first step toward ensuring that patients have access to the medications they need," according to AHA News Now.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post article
- here's AHA News Now brief