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ASHP Y2K Advisory

Providing useful and timely information related to Y2K is a priority for ASHP. In recent past months, ASHP has collected and disseminated information on pharmacy-related Y2K implications through the ASHP Newsletter, ASHP web page, and through the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. In continuing this ongoing effort, ASHP will provide a monthly advisory on the web to help pharmacists stay abreast of Y2K developments and safeguard their ability to provide patient care and protect the integrity of the medication-supply chain.

Contingency Planning 

ASHP urges all health-system pharmacies to analyze and understand their facility-specific supply needs and then undertake contingency planning with their suppliers, distributors, group purchasing organizations, and other local hospital and health system pharmacies. Contingency plans should outline actions that will be undertaken IF supply shortages occur and should not be confused with "avoidance behaviors"-actions taken BEFORE or in anticipation of the occurrence of shortages. The following bullet points suggest some key steps that should be taken in developing the pharmacy's contingency plans: 

  • Discuss pharmacy supply issues with the P&T Committee, and identify and prioritize pharmaceuticals in some manner (e.g., first into two categories: (1) Single-source and "no alternatives available" items; and (2) Multiple-source items or items that have therapeutic alternatives). Then develop "critical" lists within each category (e.g., items that would be considered absolutely necessary to sustain life versus non-life sustaining). The P&T Committee might also consider any critical surgical procedures that are conducted and any pharmacy supplies needed to prepare and administer the identified critical medications. 
  • Write out and get P&T Committee agreement on actions that will be taken in the event of shortages. 
  • Review past usage patterns and current inventory levels for all critical medications and realistically assess needs in the year 2000 transition based on historical data and projected patient needs. Establish an accelerated ongoing inventory monitoring process for the critical medications. 
  • Examine the terms in all your supplier contracts and itemize areas in question for further discussion (e.g., procedures in the event of shortages). Establish further written agreements about the role of your suppliers in finding alternate supply sources in the event of shortages. 
  • Create a comprehensive list of vendors with complete contact and emergency contact information. 
  • Contact your suppliers, distributors, and group purchasing organizations to discuss and develop joint strategies for product (especially critical product) availability in the event of shortages. 
  • Share with your vendors the information you developed through the P&T Committee (i.e., your critical pharmaceutical supply items and projected usage). 
  • Test or "rehearse" the key procedures within your joint supplier-provider contingency plans to ensure that the plan will work. 
  • Establish a dialogue and contingency plan with other local hospital and health systems. Consider having written "emergency" agreements with other health care providers in your community that provide for being each other's backup in the event of a community shortage. 
  • Consider going public to your communities with the good work you have performed in preparing for Y2K including your agreements with other local providers. This can provide some positive public relations and help assure your community that patient care will not be interrupted by Y2K.

ASHP recognizes that the above list is incomplete, but believes it still provides a good foundation for planning. ASHP hopes it also serves as a reminder that pharmacists must proactively establish plans to ensure a smooth transition into the year 2000. Despite the advice and warnings from numerous health care organizations, providers, and governmental agencies, ASHP is hearing that some health system administrators are requesting pharmacy directors to stockpile to some degree. ASHP's message NOT to stockpile is consistent with that of the American Hospital Association and the White House Roundtable Conference. ASHP also encourages members to visit the Federal Government's web page at and the AHA web page at or call 1-800-424-4301. AHA is also advising administrators NOT to stockpile. 

The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), with contract support from the Rx2000 Solutions Institute, is sponsoring a series of one-day conferences across the country to help Medicare and Medicaid providers meet the challenge of the Year 2000 (Y2K) date changeover. The one-day conferences are offered free of charge to Medicare and Medicaid providers at the following locations: 

July 20 Houston, TX
July 22 Chicago, IL
July 28 San Francisco, CA
August 3 Detroit, MI
August 5 Pittsburgh, PA
August 9 Louisville, KY
August 11 Denver, CO

A series of panel presentations will address: 

  • what steps need to be taken to ensure that Y2K changeover does not disrupt, slow, or temporarily stop process claims internally
  • what the pharmaceutical industry is doing to prepare for Y2K; 
  • how to successfully manage biomedical equipment and pharmaceutical Y2K risks; and 
  • how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) views the Y2K impact on medical devices and the current status of FDA's information on biomedical equipment Year 2000 readiness.

Registration for any of the conferences is available on-line at or by calling De Carlos Bradley at 301-270-0841, ext.209.