The impact of anti-infective drug shortages on hospitals in the United States: trends and causes.
A health system's experience in monitoring drug shortages since 1996 within the organization and since 2001 on a national level is described. Since January 1996, the Drug Information Service (DIS) at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics (UUHSC) has systematically prepared written bulletins to affected practitioners when drug shortages occurred. The DIS began providing information on a national level to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in January 2001. A total of 224 drug shortages were tracked from January 1996 to June 2002. All shortages at UUHSC were also national shortages, but only about two thirds of national shortages also affected UUHSC. The most common reasons for shortages were manufacturing problems (28%) and product discontinuation (20%). The most frequently represented pharmacologic-therapeutic categories were central nervous system agents (24%) and serums, toxoids, and vaccines (17%). Of the 119 shortages in 2001, 70 (59%) were still ongoing as of the end of June 2002. The most common potential safety problems were that clinicians might be unfamiliar with the alternative agent (54%) and that the alternative's dosage requirement was different (50%). Over half of the shortages were cost neutral, but the assessment did not include substantial potential indirect costs. Detailed information on drug shortages collected by a health system's drug information service since 1996 indicated a trend toward more frequent shortages.