Consumer Watch: drug shortage in the U.S. affecting hospitals

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by Andy Treinen

WHAS11.com

Posted on September 29, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 29 at 6:09 PM

 (WHAS11)  Some medical professionals are calling it a public health crisis; did you know there is a drug shortage right now in the U.S?  In this week’s Consumer Watch, WHAS11’s Andy Treinen takes a closer look at how it’s affecting our local hospitals.
 

Don’t let high tech advances in the pharmaceutical industry fool you; without the drugs, distribution robots are a mute point.  And, without the drugs is how some hospitals are doing business these days.  “Yeah, right now, there is a true drug shortage which has been an issue for hospitals,” said Norton Healthcare’s William Allen.  “It’s probably been going on for six to eight months.”
 

A study published by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices calls the shortage a national public health crisis; the study indicates it’s the worst shortage ever, with no hope for improvement in the near future.
 

If there is a drug shortage, it’s only a matter of time before it starts affecting you the patient, the customer, the consumer.  WHAS11 contacted a couple of our local hospitals to find out whether that is a legitimate concern.  “Absolutely, it’s a crisis because it doesn’t just affect us in the pharmacy, it goes all the way to the bedside,” according to Don Kupper
 

Kupper is the chief pharmacy officer at U of L Hospital.  He showed us several of the drugs that are on the short list right now.  They include a critical care medication for patients in cardiac arrest.  “For several months, we have not been able to get this item that is already ready to be delivered to the patient in this ready to use syringe.  And we can only get it in the vial, which slows the nursing process down,” explained Kupper; at a disadvantage to the patient.
 

William Allen said, “Most people don’t know about the shortage, because it’s largely a hospital problem.  Ninety-five percent of the drugs on the short list are injectable(s).  We’ve got about 140 different products and medications that are listed as being short, either not available, or on allocation,” explained Allen.
 

And if you’re a patient in the hospital today, your care might be managed differently than it was at this time last year.  The two biggest concerns for hospitals are chemo-therapy drugs and anesthesia products for surgery.  “It becomes very important that you keep lines of communication open with the vendors, as well as with the physicians,” said Allen.
 

Allen said that with five facilities, Norton can shift drugs between them to manage the shortage, but discussions about the next best options are a reality in hospitals now, more than ever before. Kupper explained the daily frustration of managing the problem, “The day, typically, when we order it, we find out it’s not coming,” said Kupper.
 

And there’s no robot in the world that can make it come any faster.

 

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