Have you or your loved one been informed by a health practitioner that the medicine that you’re so much in need of is no longer available? If yes, you undoubtedly know how heart wrenching that is. Drug shortages in hospitals pose a serious challenge for patients and health care institutions as they adversely interfere with patient care. These shortages range from something as trouble-free as buffered aspirin to life-saving drugs such as emergency medications (i.e. epinephrine), cancer chemotherapy agents and antibiotics.
There are various parties that are usually affected by drug shortages in hospitals, including patients, health care practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, and wholesale outlets. During times when drugs are in shortage or when it is anticipated that there will be a crisis, these parties come up with various strategies to control the situation. The government also becomes actively involved in developing plans that can help ease the impact of drug shortage in order to protect the health of patients, especially those ailing from life-threatening conditions.
How to Deal with Drug Shortages in Hospitals
One of the common practices during drug shortages is to choose alternative medications that can be used in the meantime as the problem is being addressed. Even though the alternative drugs may help to save the situation from getting out of hand, they at times present some challenges and even create some safety concerns. Unfortunate incidents such as medication errors may occur, resulting to greater threats. When an unfamiliar medication is administered as an alternative, physicians and patients may not be quite familiar matters such as dosing, duration of action and side effects, which ultimately increases the potential for bad results. It is, therefore, crucial for patients to consult with health care practitioners and only take prescribed medications to avoid undesired results.
Role of ASHP, FDA and ASCO in Controlling Drug Shortages
The American Society of Health System Pharmacists (AHSP), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Society of Clinical Oncology and various other groups have been strictly tracking the drug shortage crisis over the past few years and have held meetings with the aim of finding potential solutions. These groups are responsible for setting drug manufacturing standards, and are also responsible for approving new drugs. In case of drug shortages in hospitals, these groups should enhance their mechanisms to ensure that new drugs and manufacturers are approved swiftly.
Cost Implications of Medication Shortages in Hospitals
Whenever drug shortages in hospitals occur, there are some cost implications that are usually expected. Hospitals spend hundreds of millions annually, largely on buying more expensive alternatives or therapeutic equivalents. This figure doesn’t cover additional labor for bestowing systems and compounding, or the extra expense for disruptions and delays in patient care. Hospitals have no other choice but shoulder all these costs as they cannot be passed on to the patients because of the nature of the hospitals’ purchasing contracts. In some instances, wholesalers and distributors take advantage of the drug shortage to hoard prices of alternative drugs. This aggravates the situation and makes it hard for affected patients to conveniently access proper medical care.