“We’ve seen the number of new drug shortages steadily decline since a peak in 2011,” Gottlieb said. “Despite these efforts, we continue to see ongoing shortages of medically necessary products.”
Experts say these shortages aren’t just causing the medical community to scramble for solutions — they’re hurting patients.
“It’s a patient safety issue,” said Dr. James Augustine, chairman of the national clinical governance board for US Acute Care Solutions, a physician group that provides staffing for emergency rooms and hospitals across the country. Some patients, he said, are “scared to death for their life.”
Without their first-choice drugs for certain conditions, many doctors must make the best of what they have on hand, and these drugs may be less effective and have more side effects, Augustine said.
Health care practitioners have told CNN that they have had similar problems running out of pain meds, heart drugs, certain antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, electrolytes and more. Anesthesiologist Dr. Matthew Rabito said drug shortages in the hospital happen “all the time,” and internal medicine physician Dr. Stephanie Kaplan recalled a monthlong shortage of Dilaudid, an opioid pain medication — “the horror,” she said. Physician assistant Rich Blackmon said that “it’s a different drug every week” and that his team sometimes resorts to older drugs that haven’t been used regularly in years.
“We ration the remaining drugs for the patients that most need them, and we use alternatives when we can,” Rabito said.
Gottlieb said that many of these drugs are generic medications with low profit margins that are expensive to manufacture under appropriate sterile conditions. Another recent source of drug shortages was Hurricane Maria, which amplified what had been intermittent shortages of IV bags when it hit Puerto Rico in September.
“This is as disturbing a problem as we have seen in emergency care,” said Augustine, who also sits on the American College of Emergency Physicians’ board of directors.
“We don’t have the medicines we need,” he said.
CNN’s Susan Scutti contributed to this report.
News credit : Cnn