There is a continuing prescription drug shortage in the United States.Â According to a report by Premier health-care alliance, a group of hospitals, this shortage is costing $200 million annually and is increasing the chance of medication errors or inadequate treatment for a condition.Â The number of drug shortages has tripled since 2005, with over 240 drugs unavailable or in short supply, and 400 generic drugs back ordered for more than 5 days in 2010.Â Seventy percent of the drugs in short supply where injectable drugs, with the effects most noticed on in-hospital care.
Approximately 42% of the shortage in injectable drugs is due to quality problems with the drugs, 9% due to problems with the raw materials used to make the drugs, and 5% due to shut down of plants that make the drugs.Â Over 80% of the raw materials used to make injectable drugs comes from foreign sources.
Approximately 18% of injectable drug shortages are due to manufacturer discontinuation due to the cost of expiring patents, ongoing costs to meet FDA requirements for older drugs, and the impacts of health care reform.
The Premier report surveyed over 228 hospitals and other health care providers and found that 89% reported at least once when a drug shortage caused a medication safety issue or error in patient care, with 53% reporting it occurred more than six times.Â Eighty percent of the responding institutions reported canceling a procedure due to a drug shortage, andÂ 98% reported increased costs due to drug shortages.
The drug shortage creates difficulties for pharmacists, who have to search out any available drug in other locations, to deal with the increased cost for medications in short supply, and to come up with a back-up plan when a drug is not available.
“We think this is near a crisis situation,” said Bona Benjamin, a director at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, a pharmacist trade group.
The FDA is taking steps to address both the overall problem as well as individual drug shortages, but so far the problem continues to worsen.