Healthcare News & Insights

Drug shortages blamed in deaths of at least 15 patients

Nationwide shortages of key drugs have led to price gouging. And now some experts say the crisis has led directly to over a dozen patient deaths. 

The cause of the shortage is a trend toward smaller production runs of less profitable generic injectable drugs as well as manufacturing problems such as contamination that have removed large lots of some drugs from the market.

Vital drugs used in chemotherapy, critical care and treatment of several life-threatening illnesses have been in short supply. The shortages have inspired some middle-market suppliers to essentially scalp the meds, by buying back-stock where they can and offering it to hospitals at jacked up prices.

It’s a steep price difference, too: The Associated Press found that one medication for high blood pressure was being sold for $1,200 a dose instead of the usual $25.90 per dose.

Some hospitals are forced to postpone purchases to either save money or because the supplies simply aren’t available to them at any price. But when those drugs aren’t available, patients have to delay surgeries or other treatments — which leads to extra pain as well as avoidable complications, and in some cases, even death. Patients who receive the drugs bought from the so-called gray market suppliers aren’t necessarily safer. Sometimes hospitals end up unwittingly buying medications that have been stolen and may or may not have been handled and stored properly.

Besides the cost to patients’ health, hospitals are absorbing huge losses on these drugs — an estimated $415 million per year — which they won’t be able to do for much longer.

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  1. […] Aside from being unfair and potentially illegal, the shortages and the questionable supplies that some hospitals are forced to use have raised questi…. […]