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Survey Shows Drug Shortages Have Major Impact on Patient Care

Nearly half of pharmacy directors report shortage-related adverse events (January 9)

According to a new survey of pharmacy directors, drug shortages remain a serious problem for patient safety. Nearly half of the responding directors reported adverse events at their facilities due to drug shortages, including patient deaths.

The survey was conducted to better understand how drug shortages affect patient outcomes. The survey asked pharmacy directors from a variety of health care settings to supply information on drug shortage-related patient complaints, adverse events, medication errors, patient outcomes, demographics, and institutional costs. The survey’s findings were published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy.

In general, drug shortages have been known to cause or to contribute to a variety of issues, which were represented in the survey responses, including medication errors, increased institutional costs, cancelled care, and delayed treatment.

In addition to the more well-known effects, the survey revealed that nearly 10% of the reported adverse patient outcomes were increased readmissions due to drug shortage-related treatment failures. Thirty-eight percent of the surveyed pharmacy directors also said their organizations had received at least one patient complaint related to shortages. Of those respondents reporting the actual number of patient complaints, about 20% reported a total of more than 10 complaints.

The authors suggest that the documented occurrence of increased readmission rates and the impact of drug shortage-related patient complaints could affect health care reimbursements for providers in the future as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital; January 9, 2014.

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