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Hospital Drug Shortages Are Costing Patients Their Lives


By user on December 9, 2012


Dated September 27, 2011

No one feels ecstatic about being in the hospital but if you have to be there, you should expect to feel safe. You should feel that, at the very least, the hospital would have all the medications and supplies needed for your treatment. That is, however, not the case at hospitals all over the country. Patients are dying because life-saving medications are not available. Bacteria ridden liquid nutrition is being administered unwittingly to patients on feeding tubes are being because the formula typically used (which is a sterile product) is one of the many items on the list of medications that are experiencing massive shortages. Cancer patients are not receiving their cancer fighting chemotherapy treatments. A low estimate shows that at least 15 people have died in the recent months because hospitals cannot get their hands on the right medications. Over 200 medications are currently in dangerously short supply in at least 82% of our nations hospitals.

This is unacceptable.

The FDA does not require drug companies to report to hospitals if they are stopping production of essential meds unless they are the sole company producing the medication. But most of these drugs are manufactured by only a handful of small companies so if one supplier stops manufacturing it may not be possible for the other suppliers to meet the demand, at least not as quickly as it is needed if at all. That means that the medications that doctors have grown trust and routinely order that also just so happen to not be profitable enough to pharmaceutical companies to continue making are suddenly not there. Poof. And when critical medications used for fighting disease, regulating blood pressure, managing pain, warding of infection and generally keeping patients in good health are not available, people die. For many of us it comes as no surprise that pharmaceutical companies seem to put more value on the holy dollar than they do on human life so why does it always seem to come as a shock when we hear about such a blatant display of disregard?

Generic drugs are the most common type of drug product pharmaceutical companies are stopping production of and why? Because name brand medications bring in the big bucks and generics, the brand most hospitals use, don’t produce the same kind of profit margin. Because these generic meds aren’t as profitable they also tend to be produced in run-down facilities that have been found to have poor manufacturing processes and contamination citations. When drugs become contaminated manufactures have to stop production in order to fix the problem and because these medications are already not bringing in the profit drug companies would like many times these facilities are never reopened and the medication ceases to be readily available.

These shortages have also strengthened what the industry calls a “gray market” for hard-to-find drugs. As the name suggests, it is not necessarily the black market but it is certainly not your local corner pharmacy, either. The medications provided by this gray market are not only suspected to be ill gotten they are sold to hospitals at absurd markups, some as high as 500-1,000%! Monday the Food and Drug Administration heard pleas from doctors and hospitals regarding the devastating effects of these shortages but as of yet there are no real solutions. While some hospitals have employed a short-term solution of hoarding, we can only hope that the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies will come up with a more creative, long-term solution before more lives are lost.

To hear more on this topic, please call or click today. If you were seriously harmed or if you lost a loved one as a result of hospital drug shortages please contact attorneys Brigham Cluff and David Cluff.

Our thoughts are with those who have lost their lives due to these shortages and for their friends and family and to all others reading, please, stay healthy.