The Drug Shortage Epidemic: How Bad Is It, Really?
Jan. 25, 2018 - The drug shortage crisis continues with no end in sight. The number and duration of prescription drug shortages is growing, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Annals of Internal Medicine also reported that prescription drug shortages cause an estimated $230 million in additional costs annually due to rising prices of drugs under shortage and the higher costs of substitutes. However, there are real consequences beyond the hard-dollar costs.
Shortages and spiking drug prices are a major concern for U.S. health systems. The question is: What can be done to better manage in the midst of this growing epidemic?
Solutions Around The Nation
I recently read an article in Health Leaders, called 3 Ways Your Hospital Can Contain Escalating Drug Prices and Shortages, about approaches taken by three health systems.
1. Civica Rx
Trinity Health (Livonia, Michigan) has the most novel new solution. Trinity teamed up with other health systems to form a non-profit drug company, Civica Rx, that will focus on pharmaceuticals susceptible to price hikes and supply shortages. Trinity believes a consortium of health systems across the country coming together to form Civica Rx demonstrates the scope of the problem and the dire need for solutions.
Creating a new drug company, however, isn’t feasible for everyone. The other two hospitals in the article address drug price hikes and scarcity through more typical means.
2. Medication Use Management Programs
MedStar Health (Washington, D.C.) has a medication use management program. The program works closely with clinicians to address appropriate utilization of drugs – ensuring that the right drugs are used in the right patients, at the right amount and for the right duration. They note that doing the right thing with medications is almost always less expensive and always safer. They work closely with IT staff and leverage their EHR to hard-wire the clinical practice guidelines that were created by their clinicians.
3. Pharmacy Value Analysis Committees
The University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System uses a pharmacy value analysis committee with a hands-on approach to save on drug costs. This enables them to use lower-cost alternatives, maintain a lower inventory of higher priced drugs, ensure dosing that reduces waste and appropriately utilize in-house compounding. The vital role these pharmacists played in implementing these strategies at various points of care resulted in a $3 million savings during the past five years.
4. The Drug Shortage App™
At LogicStream Health, we keep a close eye on hospital system responses to the drug shortage epidemic. To further the nationwide management efforts, we created a new management tool for hospitals and health systems. The Drug Shortage App from LogicStream Health™ helps hospital pharmacy teams better manage drug shortages and minimize disruptions to patient care.
While each shortage is different, we’ve determined the most important information to manage shortages more efficiently from start to finish. Using The Drug Shortage App, hospital pharmacists can see:
- All workflows in the electronic health record (EHR) driving medication demand and use
- All clinicians who are ordering and administering medications in short supply
- Medication inventory and current ordering and dispensing trends impacting supply
- Documentation of all EHR changes during the shortage, allowing pharmacy teams to easily evaluate when to return to previous workflows once the shortage has passed
While none of us can prevent the larger issues driving drug shortages and escalating pharmaceutical prices, we can improve and better control how our health systems prepare for and respond to them.
To learn more about The Drug Shortage App and what others have to say about it, check out these articles. The Star Tribune wrote an article, ‘Minneapolis firm LogicStream releases app to prep hospitals for drug prices’ and read comments from one of our customers, Minnesota-based Fairview Health Services, in ‘Medical records create a new software niche’.
My colleague Patrick Yoder and I recently discussed the current state of hospital pharmacies. We captured our conversation in this episode of the LogicStreaming Podcast. Be sure to listen and, if you want to know more about our Drug Shortage App, check out the related page on www.logicstreamhealth.com.
Brita Hansen, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer of LogicStream Health. She began her career as an internal medicine hospitalist physician after receiving her undergraduate degree at NYU and her Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. She served as Chief Health Information Officer for the Hennepin County Medical Center before joining LogicStream Health.