- Hospitals in the U.S. spent more than 8.6 million hours of additional worker hours and just under $360 million per year to manage drug shortages, according to a first-of-its-kind survey from healthcare performance management firm Vizient.
- All 365 hospitals responding to the survey experienced shortages and two-thirds reported at least 20 shortages for the six-month period ending last year. The hospitals were most likely to experience shortages of controlled substances, local anesthetics, antibiotics, electrolytes and emergency injectables. The need to use substitute drugs resulted in medication errors for 38% of respondents, according to the report.
- The information comes as Civica Rx, the generic drug company formed by hospitals, recently announced it is partnering with Vizient to help anticipate gaps in drug availability and affordability. Vizient will analyze purchasing patterns and hospital needs through its data and analytic offerings in an attempt to reduce drug shortages for Civica's 900-plus members.
Drug shortages are an ongoing public health concern in the United States, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. While a recent report from the group found the number of newly reported drug shortages — 170 in 2018 — is much lower than the 305 shortages reported at the height of the crisis in 2012, some problems remain.
Drugs short in supply are often injectables that are now off-patent and are usually the result of manufacturing problems. The drugs have few suppliers, making it hard to make up the shortfall.
"We know that, looking just at additional labor costs, the impact to U.S. hospitals annually is at least $360 million," Dan Kistner, senior vice president of pharmacy solutions for Vizient, said in a statement. "When you also add the cost of more expensive alternative therapies, direct purchases outside the hospital's traditional channels, medication errors and cancelled or delayed medical procedures, we believe the actual cost of drug shortages to hospitals is significantly higher."
The top five effects of drug shortages on patient care include:
- Delay in medication in inpatient setting
- Delay in outpatient infusion
- Delay in one or more medical procedures
- Delay in immunization
- Cancellation of outpatient infusion
Poor patient outcomes can be a result of drug shortages, especially when little advance warning of the shortage is given, resulting in a cancelled procedure or infusion.