Drug Shortages More Common for Critical Medicines

July 3, 2018

A majority of emergency physicians have experienced shortages or absences of critical medicines in an emergency department, according to a recent survey of 1328 emergency physicians published by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Further, nearly all of the survey respondents say that their emergency departments are not full prepared for a patient surge capacity in the event of a natural or man-made disaster or mass-casualty incident.

“These results demonstrate why there needs to be a much stronger focus on the medical aspects of preparedness in the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2018 [PAHPAI] that is currently being drafted,” Paul Kivela, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP, said in a press statement.

“Hospitals and emergency medical services continue to suffer significant gaps in disaster preparedness, as well as national drug shortages for essential emergency medications,” he said. “These shortages can last for months, or longer, and constitute a significant risk to patients. Emergency physicians are concerned that our system cannot even meet daily demands, let alone during a medical surge for a natural or man-made disaster."

According to the survey, roughly 90% of responding health care providers say they have taken time away from patient care to explore the viability of alternative treatments and medications. Additionally, about 70% said that they have experienced an increase in drug shortages in the past year.

The survey results showed that nine out of 10 emergency workers have experienced drug shortages of critical medicines in their emergency department. Further, 93% of 247 doctors surveyed said their departments are not fully prepared for a mass disaster, and 49% said they are “somewhat” prepared.

According to Dr Kivela, ACEP has urged Congress to regionalize a preparedness approach which includes:

  • Increased coordination among public health and safety services, emergency medical services, medical facilities, trauma centers and other entities in a region.
  • Tracking of pre-hospital and hospital resources, including inpatient bed capacity, emergency department capacity, trauma center capacity, on-call specialist coverage and ambulance diversion status with regional communications and hospital destination decisions.
  • Consistent, region-wide prehospital, hospital and interfacility data management systems.

“Congress must recognize that current shortages of essential emergency medications are a substantial threat to our nation's preparedness and response capabilities,” Dr Kivela explained.

Julie Gould

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