Features  |   November 2018
Drug Shortages and Physician Ethics
Article Information
Ethics / Medicolegal Issues / Features
Features   |   November 2018
Drug Shortages and Physician Ethics
ASA Monitor 11 2018, Vol.82, 14-15.
ASA Monitor 11 2018, Vol.82, 14-15.
It’s another day in the O.R. with another day of surprises. Lately, however, the revelations aren’t the medical complexities of the patient or the cause of O.R. delay (never anesthesia, of course). For too long, the primary question has been, “what medications will I not have available today?” Further questions related to the ethics of drug shortages subconsciously arise, and these questions will be answered in this article.
How did the United States get into this chaos? ASA has a variety of information available to answer this question, so a discussion of the how is not part of this article. Suffice it to say, it’s complex and multifactorial, and a solution will not be coming any time soon. Complicating the baseline challenges are unexpected events such as Hurricane Maria, which led to a number of facilities becoming unable to produce products. Puerto Rico, one of the world’s largest centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing, is responsible for the production of 10 percent of all pharmaceutical products consumed in America. Damage from the storm and continued issues with power outages across the island have decreased manufacturing plant output and worsened pharmaceutical shortages around the world. A problem that most have experienced due to the disaster in Puerto Rico is an intravenous fluids shortage. When it comes to these shortages, the American Hospital Association (AHA) asked in a letter to the FDA to push manufacturers making these products to invest in creating more supplies in the future, as well as find suppliers within the U.S. that aren’t as susceptible to natural disasters. “We are concerned that the shortages of widely-used and critical products are quickly becoming a crisis and looming threat to the public’s health,” Thomas Nickels, Executive Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy at the AHA, wrote to the FDA.
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