Advocating for You: Focus on the impact drug and equipment shortages have on patient care
Why This Matters
Physician anesthesiologists face an unprecedented number of drug and equipment shortages, which directly impact patient safety and care.
Having a diminished supply, or no supply at all, of critical drugs and equipment can cause suboptimal pain control or sedation for patients. It also creates complex workarounds for health care staff leading to potential errors.
Shortages have resulted in delays and even cancellation of care.
ASA is a leader in the medical community on the drug and equipment shortage issue and works with other stakeholders, including federal agencies and Congress, to ensure the appropriate parties are aware of the impact shortages have on patient care.
What You Should Know
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) lists every drug shortage reported through their online report form as soon as it is investigated and confirmed, usually within 24 to 72 hours.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only focuses on shortages of medically necessary drugs, as these have the potential to impact public health. A medically necessary drug is a product that prevents a serious disease or medical condition and for which there is no drug or alternative drug, available in adequate quantity that is judged by FDA’s medical staff to be an acceptable substitute. The FDA Drug Shortage Program Staff designates some drugs as medically necessary when the preferred therapy is in shortage.
Anesthesiologists began reporting rising shortages of equipment and medical devices, such as certain epidural kits, syringes, and IV/A-line catheters, in July 2022. The FDA maintains a list of medical devices in shortage, but manufacturers have no legal obligation to publicly disclose most incoming or ongoing shortages.
What ASA Is Doing For You
Stakeholders meet periodically to discuss the state of shortages and identify new problems and recommended solutions.
ASA works with ASHP and the FDA to track and monitor issues related to drug shortages.
ASA co-led a large bipartisan letter to the FDA on drug shortages from the House of Representatives and the Senate.
ASA shared a drug shortage survey of its membership to the FDA after receiving more than 2,000 responses about how their hospitals and practices have been affected by the drug shortages.
ASA issued an equipment shortage survey to its membership in August 2022. More than 40% of respondents reported shortages of epidural kits necessitating the use of substitute products. ASA continues to monitor the most prevalent equipment shortages affecting anesthesiologists to keep members informed.
ASA and other health care leaders hosted a summit, “Drug Shortages as a Matter of National Security: Improving the Resilience of the Nation’s Health Care Critical Infrastructure,” to examine vulnerabilities in the supply chain, U.S. dependence on foreign-sourced pharmaceutical ingredients, disaster planning and response efforts, and risk factors associated with pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution.
ASA, as part of a coalition of health care groups, issued 19 recommendations to address the ongoing shortages of critical medications affecting patient care across the country, just prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s “Identifying the Root Causes of Drug Shortages and Finding Enduring Solutions” public meeting on November 27, 2018.
ASA submitted comprehensive drug shortage solutions to the FDA, in response the agency's formal request for comments and input solicitated at a November 2018 public stakeholder meeting. The recommendations include regulatory, legislative, and marketplace solutions to stem drug shortages.