Shortages of key emergency care drugs persist, study finds

Even with legislation to improve shortages in the nation's drug supply, a shortfall remains for acute and critical care drugs, according to a new study.

The research, published in the May issue of Health Affairs, found that, despite improvements since the 2012 Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, shortages of a number of pharmaceuticals remain. And more than half involve acute care drugs for the critically ill in emergency departments, hospitals and intensive care units.

The researchers analyzed data collected between 2001 and 2014 by the University of Utah's Drug Information Service and found that the shortages impacting acute care drugs was more frequent and prolonged in comparison to other drugs. The median duration of the shortages, according to the study, was 242 days for acute care drugs and 173 for non-acute care drugs.

Seventy percent of these drugs were the injectables that emergency departments tend to rely on more than other types of providers. Commonly affected were antibiotics, painkillers and sedatives and drugs that control heart and breathing rates.

"All of a sudden you have a life-critical procedure and you're using your second-best drug or a drug you're less familiar with," co-author Dr. Arjun Venkatesh, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, told Kaiser Health News

Venkatesh said he hopes the study inspires more work on improving access to these acute care medications. "At the national level, they need to provide more support around generic injectables and antibiotics--the two areas that are ripe for improvement," he said.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the Kaiser Health News article

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