Drug shortages fueling medication errors, patient complaints

January 14, 2014

Drug shortages are causing medication errors, delayed or cancelled care, and prompting patient complaints, according to a survey of pharmacy directors published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy.

Drug shortages are causing medication errors, delayed or cancelled care, and prompting patient complaints, according to a survey of pharmacy directors published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy.

The survey

The survey, Effects on Patient Care Caused by Drug Shortages, was sent to pharmacy directors in the MedAssets Pharmacy Group Purchasing Organization during a three-week period in October 2012. It focused on demographics, adverse events, medication errors, patient outcomes, patient complaints, and institutional costs.

Approximately 40% of the 193 respondents reported between one and five adverse events that were probably or possibly associated with drug shortages at their institutions. A majority of respondents reported between one and 10 medication errors probably or possibly caused by drug shortages.

The most common medication errors reported were omission and wrong dosages. The pharmacy directors said the shortages caused the use of alternative medicines, delay of therapies, and increased patient monitoring. Nearly 40% of respondents reported having received patient complaints as a result of the drug shortages.

Of the respondents, two pharmacy directors reported patient deaths associated with the shortages, three reported disabling adverse events, and 34 reported adverse events that required intervention.

 

Estimated costs

A majority of respondents estimated that the drug shortages were costing their institutions less than $100,000 per quarter. In addition, about one-quarter reported adding one full-time equivalent staff to manage the drug shortages.

“Drug shortages continue to be a burden on healthcare resources. Medication errors and adverse events continue to occur because of drug shortages, and an increasing number of healthcare resources are being dedicated to shortage management,” the report the survey concluded. “Further research is necessary to determine proper management strategies for reducing medication errors and adverse events during a drug shortage.”