Drug shortages in Hospitals

Despite the continuous efforts for the development of practical, ethical, and efficient allocation systems for shortages of medicine, a medical survey at national level showed that 81% of pharmacy managers at the hospitals face medication hoarding.

In the research conducted, a team of pharmacists, ethicists and oncologists showed their survey results. They aimed to find out how often there was a drug shortage, the burden that it would put on the hospital and the shortage would be dealt with by the hospital.

The team distributed a questionnaire containing 19 items to almost eleven hundred practicing pharmacy managers and leaders. 65% of the people responded to the survey.

“All responders reported drug shortages in the preceding year,” said the corresponding study author, Andrew Hantel. Roughly five hundred practice managers of pharmacy reported over fifty shortages. Majority of the respondents said that they had lesser than a month before hearing about the shortage of a medicine or drug at the hospital.

“In order to create a survey with questions that were relevant to our respondents, we conducted semi-structured interviews beforehand to understand pharmacists’ experiences with drug shortages,” said Hantel. “We analyzed this qualitative data systematically and tested questions for clarity and consistency before sending out the survey.”

33% of the surveys of pharmacists reported that there was no valid administrative mechanism in their hospital that could help them in responding to the shortage. “More than 80 percent reported hoarding medications in response to shortages,” explained Hantel.

The researchers concluded that in the last year, one out of every three hospitals had a case of at least a single episode of rationing. They also observed that it was not as common in community hospitals as it was in academic hospitals.

In case of severe cases, shortages demand clinicians decide “which patients receive needed medications and which patients do not, which can lead to rationing drugs between patients.” The authors have noted, “was not common.”

“Our survey,” added Hantel, “suggests that more systematic approaches are needed to address the problem and decrease the need for rationing.”