Drug shortages force increased hospital costs, medication errors

Treatment changes or delays stemming from cancer drug shortages lead to worse outcomes and higher costs, according to a national survey to be published in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

Researchers analyzed responses from 243 oncology pharmacists and other health professionals involved in managing cancer drug shortages for academic medical centers, community hospitals and other cancer treatment facilities.

Thanks to drug shortages, 93 percent reported delays in chemotherapy administration or changes in treatment regimens, 85 percent saw higher costs and 10 percent experienced reimbursement challenges.

Shortages of cancer drugs also led to additional labor expenses to address the problem, such as the extra hours hospital pharmacists spend trying to locate and purchase scarce medications or find alternatives, according to a research announcement from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Moreover, the drug shortages resulted in potential medical errors for 16 percent of survey participants, while 6 percent attributed one or more actual medication errors to the shortages.

Such medication mistakes could further impact hospitals' bottom lines as better medication administration and delivery could cut costs by nearly half a trillion dollars, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

To help cancer patients adhere to their medications, researchers from Michigan State University found hospitals can use nurse-led and automated calls, according to a January study in the journal Cancer Nursing.

For more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the St. Jude's announcement