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4/20/2001
Press Release

ASHP Guideline Recommends Advance Planning to Deal with Drug Shortages

Hospitals and health systems should plan their strategies for coping with drug shortages well in advance of the unavailability of a drug product, according to a new guidance document published by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The "ASHP Guideline on Managing Drug Product Shortages" provides pharmacy managers with recommendations for inventory management in preparation for and working through shortage situations. The document is available online at www.ashp.org/shortage/mgtguideline.pdf and will appear in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHP).

The guideline suggests a three-pronged approach to minimize the effects of drug shortages-assessing the potential impact, developing methodologies to deal with its effects, and devising contingency plans to deal with shortage-related issues beyond the institution's control. Pharmacy managers should conduct the following activities before, during, and after a shortage, including: 

  • Assessing the shortage's duration, potential threat to patient care,and cost implications,       
  • Inventorying drugs on hand and estimating the time period the products will last Identifying appropriate therapeutic alternatives,      
  • Maintaining strong communication with medical and nursing staffs to ensure seamless patient care during the shortage, and      
  • Counseling patients and their families when care may be delayed or compromised.
The guideline also reviews the contributing factors leading to drug product shortages, including unavailability of raw and bulk materials, voluntary recalls, and restricted drug product distribution.

"The past several years have found pharmacists in hospitals and health systems struggling to cope with numerous shortages of important medications," said ASHP President Mick L. Hunt, M.S., FASHP. "We hope that the recommendations offered in our guideline document will help our members take the necessary steps to ensure that their patients continue to receive the best care available."

The guideline is part of a comprehensive effort by ASHP to help pharmacists practicing in hospitals and health systems effectively manage drug shortages. Earlier this year the Society launched a dedicated Web page on www.ashp.org that provides information on current drug shortages and therapeutic alternatives that health systems can use to surmount diminishing drug inventories. The Web resource center also features links to relevant articles in AJHP and alerts issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Educational sessions on dealing with drug shortages are planned for the Society's national continuing education meetings, including one at the upcoming Annual Meeting 2001 in Los Angeles that will feature speakers from the FDA.

 ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. The Society receives updates on current drug shortages and therapeutic alternatives from the Drug Information Service (DIS) at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. ASHP, which has a long history of medication-error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines. Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP's primary objective. The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their delivery of pharmaceutical care, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.