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Shortages of Life-Saving Drugs in the ER Have Skyrocketed

January 28, 2016


In an attempt to quantify the onslaught of drug shortages that have plagued medicine for the past 13 years, researchers looked at this issue from January 2001 to March 2014.

What they found wasn’t good. There were nearly 1,800 drug shortages in the United States during that period. Approximately one-third, 610 shortages, were “relevant to the scope” of emergency medicine, according to a study published in January 2016 in the Academy of Emergency Medicine.

What’s more is that from the start of 2008 to March 2014, “drugs used as a direct lifesaving intervention or for high-acuity conditions increased 393% from 14 to 69, and shortages for drugs with no available substitute grew 125% from four to nine,” according to the study.

What’s causing them?

The authors noted that the manufacturers did not cite a reason for nearly half of the emergency medicine drug shortages when contacted.

They also found that shortages were most common for infectious disease drugs.


--Stephanie Vaccaro



1. Hawley KL, Mazer-Amirshahi M, Zocchi MS, Fox ER, Pines JM. Longitudinal trends in U.S. drug shortages for medications used in emergency departments (2001-2014). Acad Emerg Med. 2016;23(1):63-69.

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