Home Pain / Anesthetics Major drug shortages hit Australian hospitals and impact patient care, research shows

Major drug shortages hit Australian hospitals and impact patient care, research shows



June 14, 2017 06:05:18

Medication shortages are much more prevalent than previously thought, and potentially harm patients in a third of cases, according to new research.

Key points:

  • Hospital drug shortages more common than expected
  • Negative impact on patients in 30 per cent of cases
  • Call for improvements in medicines supply

A new snapshot by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) from 280 metropolitan, regional and rural health service facilities found drug shortages were common.

SHPA Professor Michael Dooley said more than 30 per cent of medication shortages had a direct impact on patient care.

“This happened through swapping in a less effective medicine, changing the administration due to a different form, or in many cases, the lack of suitable alternatives,” he said.

“We found stop-gap solutions such as ordering medicines from overseas or using emergency stock were commonplace, and information about current or impending shortages was highly unreliable.”

The five most common types of drugs in short supply were antibiotics, anaesthetics, cardiology medicines, endocrinology drugs and chemotherapy.

Top 5 drugs in short supply:

  • Vancomycin, an antibiotic
  • Metronidazole, an antibiotic
  • Norfloxacin, an antibiotic
  • Remifentanil, an anaesthetic/pain killer
  • Glyceryl trinitrate, a heart medication

Pharmacists said they were concerned manufacturers were not alerting health authorities about shortages.

“When we cross-referenced the responses with warnings and alerts available that day through government websites, including the Therapeutics Goods Administration’s Medicine Shortages Information portal, 85 per cent of reported shortages were not listed by their respective companies,” Professor Dooley said.

“We believe this is the evidence needed to push for urgent improvements in medicines supply.”

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