Emergency rooms are health care’s front line – in the United States, nearly 45 out of 100 people visit an ER in any given year. But there’s an issue brewing behind the scenes in emergency medical facilities, one that can’t be fixed by a simple stitch or bandage. A new study published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine shows that drug shortages in ERs across the United States increased by more than 400 percent between 2001 and 2014.
The study analyzed data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which receives drug shortage reports submitted through a public site administered by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Two practicing emergency room physicians assessed whether the reported shortages had to do with drugs used in ERs, then looked at whether they were associated with lifesaving or acute conditions.
Of the nearly 1,800 drug shortages reported between 2001 and 2014, nearly 34 percent were used in emergency rooms. More than half (52.6 percent) of all reported shortages were of lifesaving drugs, and 10 percent of shortages affected drugs with no substitute. The most common drugs on shortage are used to treat infectious diseases, relieve pain, and treat patients who have been poisoned. Though the number of shortages fell between 2002 and 2007, they’ve risen by 435 percent between 2008 and 2014.
That’s nothing less than a public health crisis, said Jesse Pines, director of the office for clinical practice innovation at George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and the study’s senior author. Shortages “are real, they’re happening, and they’re getting worse,” he said. Pines, who practices emergency medicine, said that though emergency rooms are implementing things like providing posters with quick alternative drug options, there’s no obvious way to cut shortages. (Read more from “Drug Shortages in American Emergency Rooms Have Increased More Than 400 Percent” HERE)