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In New York hospitals, drug shortages can be a major obstacle. When there are shortages of certain drugs, medication errors may be more likely to occur, especially if they have an impact on the methods for compounding sterile products. Establishing preparedness processes and best practices can help ensure that hospitals are prepared for shortages and able to mitigate any errors these shortages could potentially cause.

During the ASHP Summer Meeting and Exhibition that took place in Denver, Colorado, a poll found that 40 percent of attendees indicated that they ran out of essential drugs or components during IV drug shortages. Additionally, 35 percent said that their supply was low enough that they were creating plans in the event of a shortage. Approximately 77 percent of the attendees indicated they were aware that medication errors occurred at their site when shortages happened.

Even when shortages occur, compliance with USP 797 regulations is still incredibly important. Staff should be educated and trained to ensure that the processes they use during drug shortages are compliant. This includes assessing resources, work practices and facilities. Finally, staff should be reminded that out-of-date drugs and compounds require testing and monitoring before they are used for patients.

When a hospital is experiencing drug shortages, the number of medication errors may be increased, especially if staff must hand-mix medications or use alternative drugs. If a patient is given the wrong dose, the wrong drug, a drug he or she is allergic to or no vital medication at all, the patient could suffer serious harm. In these cases, a medical malpractice attorney may determine if the patient's harm was caused by negligence or incompetence. If so, the patient may be able to seek compensation for additional medical costs and pain and suffering. If the hospital refuses liability, the attorney might litigate.

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