5 Updates on the Nationwide Drug Shortage

Hospitals and surgery centers across the country have struggled recently in the face of severe drug shortages. Here are five updates on how drug shortages are affected U.S. facilities.

1. Succinylcholine is no longer in short supply. The FDA has reported that two companies, Hospira and Sandoz, are producing succinylcholine jections. Succinylcholine is a paralytic drug used to induce muscle relaxation and short-term paralysis, usually to facilitate tracheal intubation. The two manufacturers are now able to manufacture enough of the drug to meet market demands. This is a positive development for patients and physicians, considering an April 2011 survey on drug shortages conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that 47.6 percent of respondents were experiencing a shortage of succinylcholine.

2. Johnson & Johnson reported a shortage of cancer drug Doxil. Johnson & Johnson has reported a shortage of its cancer drug Doxil due to production delays at a contract manufacturer. The company has advised physicians not to start new patients on the drug and to instead consult national treatment guidelines for alternatives. While there is no direct generic equivalent for Doxil, J&J is advising physicians to consult national treatment guidelines for other options.

3. 99 percent of hospitals experienced a drug shortage in the last six months. More than 99 percent of U.S. hospitals reported one or more drug shortages in the past six months, according to an American Hospital Association survey released in early July. According to the survey, 47 percent of facilities experience a drug shortage daily, and 78 percent of facilities have implemented rationing or restricting policies to cope with lower supplies. Around 80 percent of facilities said patient treatment had been delayed because of drug shortages, and 70 percent said they treated patients with less-effective substitutes. Ninety-five percent of hospitals surveyed said they experienced a shortage of surgical and anesthesia drugs in the last six months.

4. Sen. Charles Schumber recently proposed drug shortage legislation.
Sen. Charles Schumber (D-N.Y.) has proposed legislation called the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act, which would require pharmaceutical companies to notify the FDA as soon as they run out of a drug. The legislation would allow hospitals to prepare for shortages. The proposed legislation will be voted on by the end of this legislative session and, if passed, will go into effect immediately. 

5. Drug shortages cost the United States $216 million annually.
Drug shortages affect patient care and cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately $216 million every year, according to a study released by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the University of Michigan Health System. The study also found that staff members are being shifted to focus on managing shortages, leading to increased burden and cost. A coalition of healthcare groups are advocating for streamlined drug approvals and an early warning system for shortages so providers are prepared.

Related Articles on Drug Shortages:
The Top Challenges for Anesthesiologists: 5 Thoughts From ASA Incoming President Dr. Jerry Cohen
Hospital Drug Shortage Survey Mirrors Rules of ASA Survey
ASA: How Drug Enforcement Administration Can Help Alleviate Drug Shortages

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