Drug Shortage Dilemma: The Patients

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DRUG SHORTAGE DILEMMA: THE PATIENTS

BACKGROUND:  In the past few years there have been drug shortages of over 200 different drugs in the United States, some which are ‘life saving’ as well as those for treatment and pain management. The shortage has caused a serious problem in patient care and many patients are unable to get ahold of their necessary medications. 80% of the drugs in short supply are generic injectable medications and they are used for many health issues including cancer, infections, and cardiovascular disease. In 2011 alone around 550,000 cancer patients have already been affected by these drug shortages. (Source: www.npr.org)

HOW PATIENTS ARE AFFECTED:  The effect these drug shortages have had on patients is varied and far-reaching, as many different drugs have been in short supply. Some of the main adverse effects patients have been experiencing due to drug shortages include:

  • Delays or Cancellation of Treatments - when established therapies for managing certain issues are not available, the treatments may be postponed until they become available once again.
  • Substandard Care – if a patient can no longer get access to the best possible drug to treat or manage their condition, then many times they must settle for the next best thing which may not be as good.
  • Compromised Patient Safety – the risk of error or adverse side effects increases when a patient needs to switch from the drug they had been using to an alternative because dosages, side-effects, and effectiveness may differ between the drugs. (Source: www.aacnjournals.org)

WHAT PATIENTS CAN DO:  The most important thing patients can do to help themselves concerning the drug shortages is to be aware of the possibility that a drug they use for their health may become unavailable at some point. People should talk with their doctors who may be able to tell them whether or not their medications and treatments are at risk of going into shortage and come up with a plan if they do. ( Source: Bona Benjamin, American Society of Health Pharmacists)

For more Information on drug shortages go to the ASHP website http://www.ashp.org/shortages or the FDA website at www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/DrugShortages/default.htm