An ongoing number of shortages of prescription meds is wreaking havoc among health care practitioners who work in hospitals and patients are at risk, yet little or no information is available from the FDA or drugmakers, according to a new survey. To wit, 35 percent say their facility experienced an error that could have led to patient harm during the past year thanks to a shortage. About one in four reported errors that reached patients and one in five reported adverse patient outcomes.
Compounding matters, the extent of the problem may actually be greater than reported, because errors and adverse outcomes are difficult to quantify due to voluntary reporting methods. Consequently, the survey respondents said the frequency of adverse events due to shortages is likely to be much higher. The survey was conducted by the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices and canvassed 1,832 pharmacists, nurses, pharmacy technicians and doctors (68 percent of the respondents were pharmacists). "ISMP views drug shortages as a serious issue for patient safety. More effective FDA oversight, a comprehensive early warning system, and making patient outcomes the top priority in managing shortages are just some of the avenues that need to be addressed to help healthcare practitioners keep patients safe," ISMP executive vp Allen Vaida writes us. Many of the drugs involved in the shortages, by the way, are what are known as high-alert meds, such as propofol, heparin, epinephrine, morphine, neuromuscular blocking agents, chemotherapy.
Among the reported difficulties involving shortages:
•Little or no information available about the duration of a drug shortage (85%) •Lack of advanced warning from manufacturers or FDA to alert practitioners to an impending drug shortage and suggested alternatives (84%) •Little or no information about the cause of the drug shortage (83%)
•Substantial resources spent investigating the shortage and developing a plan of action (82%) •Difficulty obtaining a suitable alternative product (80%) •Experience a significant financial impact (78%) •Lack of a suitable alternative product (70%) •Substantial resources spent preparing and/or administering the alternative products (69%) •Risk of adverse patient outcomes (64%) •Internal hoarding of medications associated with impending shortages (58%) •Physician anger towards pharmacists/nurses/hospital in response to a drug shortage (55%).