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Media Attention for Drug Shortages Helps ASHP Drive Change

Mar 28, 2011

WHILE HEALTH-SYSTEM PHARMACISTS FACE a plethora of practice challenges every day, those challenges do not often make the national news. Yet the current struggle with drug shortages has started to do just that. Scores of articles have been published in major newspapers and websites about this crisis, most of them quoting ASHP, including in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, MSNBC, WebMD, and more. And now television news programs have also begun covering the issue.

Drug shortages have caused significant disruptions in patient care, including canceled or delayed medical treatments and procedures, as well as adverse events caused by medications that may have the potential for greater harm than the first-line therapy that is unavailable because of a shortage. In fact, the Winter 2011 issue of Intersections included a great article about how members are dealing with this difficult issue.

This convergence of media interest with an important practice and public health issue provides an opportunity to charge up our advocacy efforts in this area. After all, media attention often leads to congressional attention. And that is exactly what has started to happen, with ASHP’s help!

ASHP has a long history of leading efforts to help the health care community manage issues related to drug shortages, publishing guidelines for practitioners as well as maintaining a Web resource center. Our drug shortages resource center is consistently one of the most popular areas on the ASHP web site.

In November 2010, ASHP, along with three other health care organizations, held the Drug Shortages Summit. This invitational summit brought together top leaders and key stakeholders to examine the roots of the problem and develop action steps to help resolve it. The resulting report, which can be found on the ASHP web site, includes suggestions on how to develop a more coordinated effort to address this critical issue.

After the summit, ASHP, together with the summit co-conveners and the American Hospital Association, met with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to discuss possible legislative solutions. The resulting legislation, the “Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act” (S.296), was introduced in February by Senators Klobuchar and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) and would grant the FDA new tools to help prevent drug shortages.

Next steps include advocating strongly for passage of this legislation. In addition, Summit co-conveners are continuing to collaborate, establishing work groups to prioritize activities and create action plans, and advocating to Congress, the FDA, and other federal agencies.

The challenge now is for all ASHP members to stay engaged and involved in this issue. Check out our Drug Shortages Resource Center for the latest information, and be sure to contact your senators to add your voice to the issue! ASHP’s online advocacy center can walk you through the process of reaching out to Congress about the impact of drug shortages on the patients you serve.

Please take this simple step to help ensure that the FDA has the tools that it needs to help minimize the impact of drug shortages on patient care. Urge your senators to support the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act.

Taking just a few minutes of your time to reach out to Congress can help pass this legislation—a critical first step toward solving drug shortages in this country.

Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.

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