The toll of drug shortages on hospitals: 6 notes

The number of ongoing drug shortages is nearing an all-time high, causing most U.S. hospitals to inject 5 percent to 20 percent more funds into their pharmacy budgets. 

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists surveyed more than 1,000 members between late June and mid-July about how drug shortages are affecting their work. Here are six things to know from the results:

1. At the end of the second quarter of 2023, the ASHP reported 309 current shortages. This is the highest number in nearly a decade and close to the all-time high of 320. 

2. Most survey participants said they expect their pharmacy budgets are swelling between 5 percent and 20 percent. About 7 in 10 participants said there is a 6 percent to 20 percent increase in their drug budget and up to a 15 percent increase in their labor budget. 

3. Thirty-two percent labeled the shortages as "critically impactful," and 63 percent said they are "moderately impactful." Nearly all respondents said they are experiencing drug shortages. 

4. About 6 in 10 participants said shortages of chemotherapy medications were critical. Other medication classes listed by critical impact status were corticosteroid and hormonal drugs (28 percent); oral liquids, such as amoxicillin, lidocaine and ibuprofen (22 percent); "crash cart" drugs, or prefilled syringes (18 percent); and cardioplegia solutions (17 percent). 

5. The most popular mitigation strategies are using alternative therapies, rationing supply, converting different dosages, and changing order sets or protocols. Forty-two percent of respondents said they delayed or canceled treatments. 

6. For operational solutions, respondents said they are buying different concentrations and vial sizes (91 percent), using centralized or consolidated inventory (83 percent), changing products in trays and carts (70 percent) and increasing insourcing (66 percent).

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