Skip Navigation

Dealing With the Drug Shortage Crisis

Hospitals across the country are experiencing industry-wide shortages of drugs that have been part of standard supply for decades. Nine out of 10 emergency doctors surveyed by the American College of Emergency Physicians said that they didn’t have access to emergency medications, and four out of 10 said that patients had been negatively affected.

photo by Arcaion, courtesy of Pixabay

There are several reasons why a drug shortage may occur. Some generic sterile injectables are cheaply priced, but can be expensive and difficult to manufacture. As a result, some companies have stopped making particular drugs. In other instances, manufacturers have experienced quality problems, recalls, or plant shutdowns.

Recently, serious manufacturing problems at Pfizer have made what can be a periodic problem a more immediate one. These manufacturing issues could affect supply well into next year.

Two of the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s plants have been issued warnings by the FDA after they were found to have problems with contamination and/or sterility. This has resulted in hundreds of products being placed on backorder, and Pfizer competitors are having a hard time keeping up. In fact, the company expects that 102 of the 370 drugs on shortage will not be available until 2019.

Some commonly used drugs have been on and off shortage for the past decade. Over the last three years, an average of 191 drugs have been designated on shortage per year. And as of June 25 of 2018, ASHP had 179 drugs listed as being on shortage.

With all of these shortages happening right around the same time, instead of being spread out over longer periods, everyone is scrambling to find coverage for the same medication outages.

When shortages happen, there are only a few options: find an alternative medication to treat the patient’s symptoms, or reallocate the already limited supply. However, alternatives don’t always work; patients can have adverse reactions, suffer through pain, or even have their stay extended due to treatment that is not ideal. There is also a higher risk of an error occurring causing an Adverse Drug Event (ADE). And reallocating medications is difficult, as hospitals must share their meager supply and figure out where to best send them.

Kit Check has built-in shortage management tools to help hospitals deal with medication shortages. Read how one hospital was better able to deal with shortages, or listen to a webinar about Kit Check’s shortage management tools.