May 18, 2018
ASA Urges HHS and Congress to Address Drug Shortages
Ahead of 600 physician anesthesiologists visiting Capitol Hill, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) sent a formal communication to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing concerns regarding severe shortages of injectable medications. ASA requested that HHS facilitate an interdepartmental or interagency task force to work with stakeholders, including ASA, for permanent solutions to this serious problem.
During their visits on Capitol Hill, ASA members communicated with their lawmakers about unprecedented drug shortages and expressed the need for Congress and the appropriate regulatory agencies to reengage on this critical public health issue now.
The letter to HHS explained that of particular concern to physician anesthesiologists are both shortages of local anesthetics and intravenous pain medications. Both of these drugs are critical for pain control and successful sedation of patients undergoing surgical procedures. Specifically, ASA’s letter stated:
“Having diminished supply, or no supply at all, can cause suboptimal pain control or sedation for patients in addition to creating complex workarounds for healthcare staff, leading to potential errors. In addition, local anesthetics are used on nerves for surgical incisions, epidurals, spinal anesthesia, and peripheral nerve blocks which numb large regions of the body, so surgery can be performed safely and without pain. These agents are essential to the fight against the opioid epidemic as they are a vital part of multimodal analgesia used to reduce opioid use in acute care and surgical settings.”
ASA urged HHS to form a national task force dedicated to discovering and addressing the myriad of reasons for shortages, as well as ways to prevent recurrence of the current unparalleled level of medication shortages in the United States. The Society identified key questions and issues that could be considered by the task force.
ASA looks forward to working with Congress and the appropriate regulatory agencies to address drug shortages. As leaders in pain medicine and patient safety, ASA will remain committed to ensuring the essential drugs are available for safe surgical procedures.