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2012 ASA Drug Shortage Survey Results

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In March 2012, ASA surveyed its members on drug shortages. The responses to the survey totaled 3,063 anesthesiologists representing 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and six nations.  The majority of responses (3,033) were from the United States.  Respondents also represented all health care settings including hospitals (88.5 percent), ambulatory surgery centers (44.7 percent), office-based (13.2 percent) and critical access hospitals (8 percent).

Here are some of the surveys’ key findings:

1.) 97.6 percent of respondents reported they are currently experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthesia drug.

2.) The anesthesia drugs with the highest frequency of reported current shortage are as follows:
    Fentanyl 66.3%
    Thiopental 40.3%
    Succinylcholine 21.1%
    Propofol 19.2%
    Pancuronium 15.2%

3.) Respondents reported that drug shortages had the following impact on patients:
    66.7% of patients experienced a less optimal outcome (e.g. post-op nausea and vomiting)
    52.8% of patients experienced longer OR/recovery times
    27.5% of patients complained
    0.2% resulted in death of a patient (6)

4.) Respondents reported drug shortages had the following impacts on his or her practice:
    96.3% had to use alternative drugs
    50.2% had to change the procedure in some way
    7.0% had to postpone cases
    4.1% had to cancel cases

The data supports the results from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on drug shortages.  The GAO report contained analysis that found anesthetic and central nervous system drugs are among the class of drugs experiencing the highest frequency of shortages at 23 percent of all shortages.  It is clear drug shortages have worsened over the past year.

"The 2012 ASA Drug Shortages Survey demonstrates the tremendous toll the shortages of anesthetics are taking on our members and ultimately patients," said ASA President Jerry A. Cohen, M.D.  "The survey confirms that the crisis continues to worsen in its severity and depth across the nation.  Tragically, the shortages now may be leading to instances of mortality," said Dr. Cohen.

"Fortunately, anesthesiologists are highly trained physicians who can determine the best alternative treatment for a patient," said Dr. Cohen.  "However, this is not the way we want to practice on a regular basis in the interest of our patient’s comfort and safety, as treatment alternatives tend to come with additional side effects."

ASA continues to work proactively with industry peers to develop legislative and regulatory solutions to help alleviate the drug shortages crisis.

FDA Drug Shortages website

ASHP's Drug Shortages website

ASA Drug Shortage page

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