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Currently, and over the last several years, there has been a significant rise in drug shortages. As defined by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), “A drug product shortage is defined as a supply issue that affects how the pharmacy prepares or dispenses a drug product or influences patient care when prescribers must use an alternative agent.”

Medication shortages = negative ripple effect. This means that current, and new hospice patients may not be able to get medications they need. Let’s dig into some of the top statistics for current medication shortages.


1. Shortage Factors3

Shockingly, the highest reported contributing factor for drug shortages? Unknown!

The other top areas for issues came from Supply & Demand, and Manufacturing. Based on this, it’s clear that more time needs to be spent identifying where in the supply chain process issues are happening. This will then allow a more effective way to navigate towards fixing the process.

Pie Chart - Med Shortages

University of Utah Drug Information Service; Contact: Erin.Fox@hsc.utah.edu, @foxerinr for more information

2. Shortage Trends3

There has been a significant trend with active drug shortages in the last several years. There has not been a number reported lower than 200 since Q4 of 2017! As you can see from the graph below, the active shortages have remained steady with little signs of slowing down. Some may say that the trends may correlate with overall staff shortages across the board.

Quarter Med Shortages (1)

University of Utah Drug Information Service; Contact: Erin.Fox@hsc.utah.edu, @foxerinr for more information

3. Shortage Top Drug Classes3

The top class in drug shortages as of 9/22 was Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. These would be medications to help with treating anxiety, stress, help with sleep and calm muscle spasms. In hospice, opioid therapy is typically administered to help relieve any fears and anxiety that may come towards end-of-life. The most commonly used opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, morphine, fentanyl and methadone.

Classes Med ShortagesUniversity of Utah Drug Information Service; Contact: Erin.Fox@hsc.utah.edu, @foxerinr for more information

4. How to respond

One of the best ways to respond to this situation is to be transparent and have a plan in place for alternative therapies that you can provide to patients in need. For a detailed breakdown provided by ASHP, visit here.

Resources available

Overall, the medication shortage is complex in many ways. There are many factors that play a role in making sure hospices and medical facilities can get what they need for their patients. ASHP has put together a wonderful set of guidelines and tools that may be helpful.

We're here to help

We have PharmD’s that can answer questions and offer alternative therapies if you’re ever dealing with a shortage in a medication you need. Visit us at: betterrx.com for more info!

Cited sources:

1 https://hospicenews.com/2022/05/19/medication-shortages-imperil-hospice-access-quality/

2 https://www.ashp.org/drug-shortages/current-shortages/drug-shortages-faqs

3 https://www.ashp.org/drug-shortages/shortage-resources/drug-shortages-statistics

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