The New York Times Reports Drug Shortages Are the “New Normal” at U.S. Hospitals
In a recent article, the New York Times chronicled the ever-mounting problems that drug shortages are creating at hospitals throughout the United States. Doctors, hospitals and drug companies are now being forced to ration drugs and make difficult ethical decisions about which patients get a drug that’s in short supply and which ones do not.
Drug Shortage Lists Are Growing
Because of manufacturing problems, federal safety crackdowns, and drug-makers abandoning low-profit products, shortage lists continue to grow at alarming rates. Currently, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has more than 150 drugs on its short supply list, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has 754 drugs on its shortage list.
The Painful Consequences of Drug Shortages
Most hospitals do not share news about a drug shortage with patients because they see it as adding more stress to their lives when their health is already compromised.
Thus, the full weight of rationing decisions is shouldered by over-burdened doctors, pharmacists and health care practitioners, who see the results of drug shortages in increased pain and suffering for patients. Many drug shortages have even resulted in invasive surgeries, such as when cancer patients, who don’t receive short-listed anti-tumor medications, require surgery to remove new tumors.
The Dangerous Inefficiency of Manual Tracking Methods
To manage drug shortages, many hospitals and pharmacists are forming committees of ethicists, patient representatives, physicians, pharmacists and drug company executives to determine how to better manage shortages; however, most of these committees merely determine rationing guidelines. Still other hospitals have added drug shortage management to their pharmacists’ already lengthy to-do lists, requiring them to spend a significant portion of each day tracking all drugs on shortage lists, identifying alternatives, and developing and enforcing drug ration guidelines.
RFID, A Better Way to Manage Drug Inventory
While many hospitals are struggling with the ongoing issues drug shortages create, numerous hospitals are combatting drug inventory management challenges with technology, specifically radio-frequency identification (RFID). RFID empowers hospitals to:
- Identify and track drugs at risk of being in short supply
- Prevent and eliminate waste (vital during a shortage)
- Tighten inventory and reduce overstock
Smart, Technology-Driven Drug Inventory Management
Because RFID–enabled processes provide immediate visibility and analytics on the status of pharmaceutical inventory (quantities on hand, expiry data) plus long-term analytics to determine actual drug utilization, health system pharmacists know precisely what current inventory levels are and the status of that inventory. Armed with data, stock rotation or transfer of soon-to-expire inventory can be initiated - before it’s actually outdated, and well before costly waste occurs.
In the bigger picture, while RFID-enabled pharmaceutical inventory management processes support the immediate needs of each individual hospital, wide-spread usage of RFID inventory management processes can provide comprehensive analytics to help assure that drugs across the supply chain are not being wasted – a particularly important goal for those drugs in scarce supply,
Of course, some drug shortages may be unavoidable, (i.e. when a manufacturer discontinues a drug), but RFID can provide a distinct advantage in arming those involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain with information needed to plan ahead, proactively manage medications, and help prevent the costly safety and financial issues drug shortages cause.
Learn About RFID Solutions for Critical Inventory
MEPS Real-Time, Inc. is a leading innovator of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solutions for pharmacy inventory management applications. We develop patented technology and processes with an unwavering commitment to accuracy to eliminate human error, improve cost control, reduce risk, and increase efficiency. Intelliguard® RFID Solutions include: