Hospitals hunt substitutes as drug shortages rise

Makes you wonder if the Government is too involved. Usually, when there is a demand, the private sector rushes to fill it. That rush can be stopped in its tracks if the Government gets into it. It appears that there is a cost factor involved where the cost of production of these drugs, which may be generic, makes them not profitable. Evidently something is interfering with the “supply and demand” equation for determining price. Could that be the FDA? Anyway, let us hope this situation gets resolved without more FDA regulations, which may have unforeseen, and deadly, consequences.

Excerpt: A growing shortage of medications for a host of illnesses – from cancer to cystic fibrosis to cardiac arrest – has hospitals scrambling for substitutes to avoid patient harm, and sometimes even delaying treatment.

“It’s just a matter of time now before we call for a drug that we need to save a patient’s life and we find out there isn’t any,” says Dr. Eric Lavonas of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The problem of scarce supplies or even completely unavailable medications isn’t a new one but it’s getting markedly worse. The number listed in short supply has tripled over the past five years, to a record 211 medications last year. While some of those have been resolved, another 89 drug shortages have occurred in the first three months of this year, according to the University of Utah’s Drug Information Service. It tracks shortages for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

The shortage that’s made the most headlines is a sedative used on death row. But on the health-care front, shortages are wide-ranging, including:

-Thiotepa, used with bone marrow transplants.

-A whole list of electrolytes, injectable nutrients crucial for certain premature infants and tube-feeding of the critically ill.

-Norepinephrine injections for septic shock.

-A cystic fibrosis drug named acetylcysteine.

-Injections used in the ER for certain types of cardiac arrest.

-Certain versions of pills for ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

-Some leuprolide hormone injections used in fertility treatment.

No one is tracking patient harm. But last fall, the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices said it had two reports of people who died from the wrong dose of a substitute painkiller during a morphine shortage.

“Every pharmacist in every hospital across the country is working to make sure those things don’t happen, but shortages create the perfect storm for a medication error to happen,” says University of Utah pharmacist Erin Fox, who oversees the shortage-tracking program.

Affected companies say they’re working hard to eliminate backlogs. For instance, Hospira Inc., the largest maker of those injectable drugs, says it is increasing production capacity and working with FDA “to address shortage situations as quickly as possible and to help prevent recurrence.”

But the Generic Pharmaceutical Association says some shortages are beyond industry control, such as FDA inspections or stockpiling that can exacerbate a shortage.

“Drug shortages of any kind are a complex problem that require broad-based solutions from all stakeholders,” adds the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a fellow trade group.

Read full AP article here.

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