Anesthetic shortage affecting patient care

May 19, 2011

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists board of directors recently selected Paul W. Abramowitz, PharmD, FASHP, as executive vice president and CEO-designate.

More than 90% of anesthesiologists who responded to a recent survey conducted online by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) are currently experiencing a shortage of at least 1 anesthetic. More than 98% reported a shortage within the last year.

The ASA’s Drug Shortages Survey was administered online from April 12 to April 27, 2011. Respondents (1,373) representing all care settings, 48 states, and 6 nations indicated a widespread shortage, reporting current or recent shortages of neostigmine (56.9%), sodium thiopental (54.7%), succinylcholine (47.6%), propofol (40.3%), and glycopyrrolate (17.3%).

The survey also found that the drug shortage is affecting patient care. Although more than 91% of the respondents indicated that they had been able to work through the shortage using alternative medications, the survey indicated that nearly half the patients who underwent procedures using alternative medications had less than optimal outcomes, such as an increase in the frequency of nausea after surgery, longer operating room and recovery times, and increasing healthcare costs. About 10% of respondents reported having to cancel or postpone procedures because of the shortage.

“The drug shortages are having a profound impact on anesthesiologists and patients each day,” said ASA President Mark A. Warner, MD, in a published statement. “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.”