Drug Shortages Reduced in U.S. While Disruptions Remain

Medicine shortages in the U.S. caused by manufacturing issues, drugmaker closures, recalls and quality issues have been reduced since 2012, though still cost U.S. hospitals about $200 million a year.

There were 38 new drug shortages reported in the U.S. from January to September 2013 in which doctors and hospitals couldn’t get needed medicines, down from 117 for all of 2012, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The lack of available drugs delayed or canceled patient care in 65 percent of hospitals compared with 84 percent in 2011, according to a survey released today by Premier Inc., a health-care consulting and supply chain company based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“While ongoing shortages remain a problem, the supply chain is also vulnerable to shortage ‘spikes’ that significantly disrupt patient care and hospital operations,” Premier said in the report. The efforts to reduce shortages “are having a positive impact, but drug shortages continue to plague hospitals and require an ongoing urgency.”

About 300 drugs remain in long-term shortage. As a result, patients may have to use alternative medicines, delay or interrupt treatment, or hospitals and doctors have to find and buy more expensive supplies, according to Premier’s report that put the cost at $200 million each year.

The most common drugs in shortage were electrolytes, intravenous fluids, heart medicines such as nitroglycerin solution, and surgical therapies for anesthesia and sedation, such as propofol.

The FDA began more closely monitoring shortages in 2011, in an attempt to reduce the number and prevent price gouging. Part of the agency’s plan was to find alternative sources of supply for drugs that were likely to be in shortage.

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