Medical Shortages Are Affecting Patient Safety

January 22, 2024

Unavailability of necessary drugs, supplies, and equipment—including an increasing number of lifesaving drugs with no viable alternatives—because of shortages are “making it nearly impossible to provide safe, high-quality patient care in a fiscally responsible manner,” healthcare professionals across a variety of disciplines reported (https://d84vr99712pyz.cloudfront.net/p/pdf/10.2023_press_release_medication_shortages_supporting_summary.pdf) on a 2023 ECRI and Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) survey.

ECRI is a nonprofit (https://www.ecri.org/about/), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services–certified patient safety organization. For the study with ISMP, the organizations surveyed nearly 200 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, procurement specialists, physicians, and nurses working in community, teaching, pediatric, and cancer care hospitals, among other care locations, about drug, supply, and equipment shortages and their impact on patient care.

In total, 60% of respondents reported (https://d84vr99712pyz.cloudfront.net/p/pdf/10.2023_press_release_medication_shortages_supporting_summary.pdf) that more than 20 drugs, single-use supplies, or durable medical equipment were involved in shortages during the six months prior to the survey and those shortages affected a wide range of specialties and subspecialties. For oncology and hematology specifically, 44% of respondents said (https://d84vr99712pyz.cloudfront.net/p/pdf/10.2023_press_release_medication_shortages_supporting_summary.pdf) that their ability to provide safe, high-quality care was affected.

Respondents provided (https://www.ecri.org/press/medication-supply-equipment-shortages-are-harming-patients) specific examples, including:

“The extent to which medication, supply, and equipment shortages are negatively impacting patient care is inexcusable,” ISMP President Rita K. Jew, PharmD, MBA, said (https://www.ecri.org/press/medication-supply-equipment-shortages-are-harming-patients). “While pharmacies and hospitals can triage shortages short-term, we need long-term, nationally coordinated solutions to solve the persistent shortages we’ve witnessed repeatedly over the past several years.”

Oncology nurses can advocate to their policymakers for those long-term, nationally coordinated solutions. Access to safe, high-quality cancer care is a longstanding ONS position (https://www.ons.org/make-difference/ons-center-advocacy-and-health-policy/position-statements/access-quality-cancer), and ONS joined (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/us-congress-must-empower-fda-to-solve-cancer-drug-shortages-representative-pallone-urges) U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and the greater cancer community in summer 2023 to raise awareness (https://www.ons.org/make-a-difference/advocacy-policy/public-health) and identify ways to overcome the shortages. Learn how you can get involved (https://voice.ons.org/advocacy/get-involved-in-onss-health-policy-advocacy).


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