Hospital patients at risk from medicines shortage

Patient care is being put at risk by the medicines shortage.

Nearly a third of hospital patients are being treated with less effective medications due to pharmaceutical supply shortages across the country, a new report has found.

A national survey conducted by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) found that drug shortages are rife in regional and rural health service facilities and that information about current or impending shortages is highly unreliable.

This means that hospital pharmacists are being forced to delve into emergency stocks or give patients different medications all together.

The most common shortages are in anaesthetics, cardiology medicines, endocrinology medicines and chemotherapies.

SHPA president professor Michael Dooley said the shortages are a national issue.

“Seventy per cent of respondents retrospectively found out about medicine shortages when trying to order stock, prompting them to switch brands or drugs, use emergency stock or procure stock through the TGA’s Special Access Scheme, which increased costs in 93 per cent of cases,” he said. 

“Just over 32 per cent of shortages were reported to have a direct impact on patient care through swapping in a less effective medicine, changing the administration due to a different formula, or a lack of available alternatives.”

The organisation says the government needs to step in to regulate the practice and ensure medicines are always available when patients need.

“Hospitals are bearing the burden of this lack of medicine supply regulation, and the more time pharmacists spend on the phone chasing limited or replacement stock, the less time they can spend with care teams advising and caring for patients,” SHPA chief executive Kristen Michaels said.

“Government action to address this issue has precedent, with Canada and Slovakia recently regulating the reporting of shortages of medicines and vaccines by manufacturers and wholesalers.”

Have you been in hospital recently? What was your experience like?

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