The drug shortage crisis in the United States is no mystery. For the past six years, the problem has become an increasingly difficult situation to address, culminating last year with record levels of shortages. Spurred by a variety of manufacturing issues – notably cutbacks in production and expiration of patents – a lack of proper medication is reaching epidemic levels at some healthcare facilities.
As highlighted in a recent Washington Post article, one hospital in the D.C. area describes the situation where hospital staff rushes to address the issue through time-consuming substitute preparations, and even then, it only provides enough leeway for several days. Industry estimates figure that pharmacists spend eight to nine hours a week dealing with drug shortages, triple the time spent in 2004 for the same issue.
The problem has become so severe that injuries and multiple mortalities have been attributed to shortages. With more than 210 drugs in diminishing supply or simply non-existent, the question of how to continue the practice of safe, high-quality patient care in such a difficult climate is heightened.
In a recent interview with Becker’s Hospital Review, Robert Farrar, MD, JD, Somnia’s vice president of medical affairs, discussed the shortage of anesthesia drugs and offered methods to combat the problem.
"It must be a shared burden; no one hospital or surgery center can address drug shortages alone," said Dr. Farrar. "Providers must work together to reallocate resources."
He also urged healthcare providers to take the issue to the highest levels of government and stress the dire need to address the issue.
"This is an unprecedented time for us in healthcare in general, and we're faced with a number of challenges, including drug shortages; however, challenges always present opportunities, and this is a time for us to proactively deal with a negative issue by enacting legislation and taking steps to ensure our supply of critical and anesthesia medications are subjected to a more transparent processes.”