Survey: Patients Aware of Drug Shortages, Which Are Detrimental to Safety

A new survey from Northwestern Medicine and MedAssets shows drug shortages can create major problems for patient safety, and what's more, they make patients angry over perceived shortfalls in care.

The survey collected nearly 200 responses from directors of pharmacy. Nearly 40 percent reported patient complaints over the shortage or a switch to another medication because of the shortage.

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In addition, the safety risks because of drug shortages appeared to be significant. Approximately 40 percent of respondents reported between 1 and 5 adverse events and the majority of respondents reported between 1 and 10 medication errors associated with a drug shortage. Errors included medication omission, incorrect dosages dispensed or administered and incorrect drugs dispensed or administered. As a result, respondents reported dispensing alternate drugs, delaying therapy and increasing patient monitoring.

In addition, the majority of respondents estimated drug shortages cost somewhat less than $100,000 per quarter per institution, though costs associated with shortages have increased in recent years. Approximately 25 percent of respondents said their institutions had brought on a full-time employee to manage drug shortages.

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