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Drug shortages increase risk of medication errors

Drug shortages in hospitals can lead to very dangerous risks for patients, including an increased risk of medication errors, according to a new study. Drug shortages can cause delays or changes to patient treatments and also result in higher costs for hospitals.

The study found that drug shortages can also increase the risk of medication errors for hospital patients. Researchers reported that 16 percent of potential medical errors were caused by drug shortages and six percent of medication errors were attributed to drug shortages in hospitals.

Drug shortages cause hospitals and pharmacists extra expenses to try and address the shortage, including working additional hours and trying to find different treatments for patients affected by the drug shortage.

During drug shortages, the patients who rely on these drugs for their treatment have to rely on taking lower doses, trying to use a different drug treatment or go without receiving any drug treatment until the shortage is addressed. Drug shortages can cause a patient's disease to progress and cause disease or treatment-related complications that could be prevented by continuing a patient's treatment with his or her proper medication regimens.

What causes drug shortages? Drug shortages are often caused by manufacturing problems, delays in production and drugs being discontinued. Previous studies have shown that drugs used to treat cancer and certain infections are more likely to have a shortage.

Drug shortages put patients at risk for suffering further harm from their illness or disease and when hospitals try to change their drug treatment, it may end up harming the patient more than helping. In other cases, some patients don't receive any drug treatment at all, which can put them at a higher risk for further damage to their health.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "Drug shortages force increased hospital costs, medication errors," Alicia Caramencio, March 25, 2013

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