Survey Reveals 90 Percent of Anesthesiologists Experiencing Drug Shortages of Anesthetics

Drug Shortages Impacting Patient Care and Increasing Health Care Costs

Washington D.C. — (May 9, 2011) 

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) today announced the findings from its nationwide Drug Shortages Survey. Results showed that more than 90 percent of anesthesiologist respondents are currently experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthetic. Within the last year, more than 98 percent of respondents experienced an anesthesia drug shortage.

Drug shortages of anesthetics are widespread across the country. Survey respondents from 48 states participated in the survey and reported a current or recent shortage of several anesthesia drugs, including:
• Neostigmine (56.9 percent)
• Thiopental (54.7 percent)
• Succinylcholine (47.6 percent)
• Propofol (40.3 percent)
• Glycopyrrolate (17.3 percent)

Alternative Solutions
More than 91 percent of respondents have been able to work through the drug shortages by using alternative medications. Over half have found it necessary to alter care for patients in some way. Also, approximately 10 percent of respondents have postponed or cancelled procedures as a result of the shortages.

Nearly half of patients who underwent procedures during a drug shortage experienced less than optimal outcomes such as an increased frequency of nausea after surgery from the use of alternative drugs. Longer operating room and recovery times and increasing health care costs for patients and insurers also were reported in nearly half of patients who underwent procedures during a shortage.

Since participating in a Drug Shortages Summit in November 2010, ASA has been working with the FDA, workgroups identified by the Summit, and professional organizations to find ways to reduce the impact of the shortages and maintain high value and safe patient care. ASA supports the introduction of S. 296, the “Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act,” by Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) and the request for a Government Accountability Office investigation into the shortages by Senator Blumenthal (D-CT).

“The drug shortages are having a profound impact on anesthesiologists and patients each day,” said ASA President Mark A. Warner, M.D. “It is important for patients who are about to undergo anesthesia to have a physician who practices anesthesiology involved in their care; anesthesiologists are specifically trained to provide safe care despite the need to use alternative drugs when others are in short supply or not available.”

ASA encourages patients who are concerned about the drug shortages to speak with their anesthesiologist to find out whether the shortages are impacting their particular hospitals or surgery centers. For more information, click here.

The Drug Shortages Survey was administered online from April 12-27, 2011. The 1,373 anesthesiologist respondents represented 48 states (all but ND and WY), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and six nations (United States, Canada, Indonesia, Switzerland, Qatar and Brazil). The majority of responses (1,350+) were from the United States. Respondents also represented all care settings, including hospitals (82.7 percent), ambulatory surgery centers (10.9 percent), office-based (2.7 percent) and critical access hospitals (3.7 percent).


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.



American Society of Anesthesiologists