Impact of drug shortages on U.S. health systems

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2011 Oct 1;68(19):1811-9. doi: 10.2146/ajhp110210.


Purpose: A study was performed to quantify the personnel resources required to manage drug shortages, define the impact of drug shortages on health systems nationwide, and assess the adequacy of information resources available to manage drug shortages.

Methods: An online survey was sent to the 1322 members of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists who were identified as directors of pharmacy. Survey recipients were asked to identify which of the 30 most recent drug shortages listed affected their health system, to identify actions taken to manage the shortage, and to rate the impact of each shortage. Employees responsible for completing predefined tasks were identified, and the average time spent by each type of employee completing these tasks was estimated. Labor costs associated with managing shortages were calculated.

Results: A total of 353 respondents completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 27%. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians spent more time managing drug shortages than did physicians and nurses. There was a significant association between the time spent managing shortages and the size of the institution, the number of shortages managed, and the institution's level of automation. Overall, 70% of the respondents felt that the information resources available to manage drug shortages were not good. The labor costs associated with managing shortages in the United States is an estimated $216 million annually.

Conclusion: A survey of directors of pharmacy revealed that labor costs and the time required to manage drug shortages are significant and that current information available to manage drug shortages is considered suboptimal.

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Data Collection
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Information Management
  • Internet
  • Nurses
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / economics
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / supply & distribution*
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / economics
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / trends
  • Pharmacy Technicians / economics
  • Physicians
  • United States
  • Workforce


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations