Impact of Drug Shortages on Patient Safety and Pharmacy Operation Costs

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Patient safety events are frequently underreported, leading to underestimation of true safety event incidence. Given that these events are documented by multiple disciplines and that many of these documenters may not be aware consistently of the drug products and volume impacted by shortage, elucidating safety events unfolding in relation to shortage also is difficult to quantify.

The response rate for the survey was low but near the expected rate for this methodology. Feedback from several facilities was received, citing competing demands and workforce shortage as barriers to participation. The survey also was limited by reporting bias and recall bias. As assessment of prespecified past drug shortages may require intimate knowledge of pharmacy department processes and mitigation strategies, the accuracy of question answering may have been limited to the length of time the points of contact had been in their current position.


Drug shortages are a pervasive barrier to patient care within larger facilities of the VA health care system, similar to what has been characterized in the private sector. As a result of these shortages and the mitigation strategies to reduce their burden, many facilities endorsed trends in increasing workload for staff, institutional operation costs, and risk for patient safety and care quality concerns. Due to the demands of shortages, some facilities have implemented drug shortage task forces or equivalent groups to specifically manage these issues. Moving forward, the VA health care system may benefit from similar task forces or working groups at the VISN level, to aid in collaborative efforts to respond to shortage. Support for revising federal regulations on procurement in times of shortage and enhanced PBM drug shortage management guidance also was endorsed.

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