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Drug Shortages Still A Problem For Almost All Hospital Systems

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Drug shortages are a problem for almost every hospital system, and executives say that problem will continue over the next few years. That's according to a national survey released today by Premier, a Charlotte-based consulting firm. 

The shortages include chemotherapy treatments, antibiotics and basic vitamins for IV fluids. It's been a problem for at least five years, and even prestigious centers like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have had to change treatments

In Premier's latest survey, Chief Operating Officer Michael Alkire says 95 percent of hospital systems see the problem continuing for the next three years.          

"We think in some cases it's getting better, but as we fix where there are therapies that are in short supply, there are going to be naturally other ones that the quality of product isn't up to snuff," he says. "And so I would tell you no, it's not getting better if the numbers are increasing."

Alkire says by Premier's count, there are roughly 50 more drug shortages now than there were five years ago.

The drugs are generics with thin profit margins, so not many companies make them. A small number of manufacturers plus recurrent production problems lead to shortages.  

Alkire says the Food and Drug Administration is accelerating approval of new generics but not fast enough.