Drug Shortages

April 11, 2016
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Synopsis: For more than 10 years, hospitals have been plagued by shortages of important drugs, sometimes forcing doctors to decide who will receive them, and who will die. Experts explain why these shortages occur, the unfortunate outcomes, and what they do to try to minimize the damage.

Host: Reed Pence. Guests: Dr. Yoram Unguru, pediatric hematologist-oncologist, Children’s Hospital at Sini, Baltimore, and faculty member, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University; Bona Benjamin, Director of Medication Use Quality Improvement, American Society of Health System Pharmacists; Dr. Brian Fitzsimmons, cardiac anesthesiologist, Cleveland Clinic Foundation

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16-15 Drug Shortages

Reed Pence: Doctors have an incredible array of medications to treat disease. Some drugs attack the disease itself, like chemotherapy drugs. Others, like anesthesia, assist in surgery or other procedures. And some drugs such as pain medications treat the symptoms of disease or trauma. Doctors can use the very best medications for a given patient- unless they can’t get the drug at all. Drug shortages are surprisingly common.

Dr. Yoran Unguru: These drug shortages have been going on in their current form for well over 10 years and they reached a peak just a couple of years ago with 320 drugs in short supply and they span the classes of drugs. So it’s not just chemotherapy, which is what I’m interested in per say, it’s really drugs of all class. So it’s critical care drugs, antibiotics, ICU drugs, essential electrolytes and minerals. There’s actually a shortage, believe it or not, of normal saline, that’s salt water.

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