Drug Shortages Plague Connecticut Hospitals

The United States pharmaceutical industry does more than provide jobs. It produces innovative drug therapies that improve the quality of health care and save lives. However, drug shortages that can impact health service delivery to millions across the nation have been reported by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHSP) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With some of the nation's best hospitals within its borders, such as Yale-New Haven Hospital, Hartford Hospital, as well as St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, the state of Connecticut and its citizens are also feeling the pinch from the nation's current drug shortage.

Pharmaceuticals are essential components of the treatment regimens for many serious conditions and symptoms. For many specialty practices, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, painkillers, antibiotics and anesthetics are in short supply. In the Constitution State, medical professionals must consider alternative and sometimes older medications and therapies. Hospitals are sharing supplies of medications whenever possible and buying needed stores from more expensive secondary sources.

According to the ASHSP, almost 150 drugs were in short supply last year. FDA non-compliance and business decisions that affect production contribute to the pharmaceutical backlogs and scarce supplies. The FDA has attempted to take emergency measures to address the various drug shortages. Some of their solutions included obtaining imports from foreign companies-items that not subjected to federal approval process.

The national drug supply crisis has gained the attention of the U.S. Congress. In early February 2011, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Robert Casey sponsored legislation that would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide the FDA with improved capacity to prevent drug shortages. The Klobuchar and Casey Senate Bill (S.B. 206), called the Preserving Access to Life Saving Medications Act, has been referred to the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

These problems are not merely germane to Connecticut hospitals and medical facilities but are national health care issues. Other national medical facilities and practitioners are distressed by the shortages and backlogged orders. According to the non-profit Institute for Safe Medication Practices, at least two patients have died and more than 100 errors, adverse patient outcomes and near-misses have been linked to drug shortages.

Supply and demand affect more than profit margins in the case of lifesaving drugs. National public health and human loss hang in the balance. If the existing problems with our health care system's drug shortages are not resolved, adequate and timely medical care will be compromised and patients will suffer.