ISSN 2330-717X

US Emergency Departments Face Serious Drug Shortages


Drug shortages affecting emergency care have skyrocketed in the United States in recent years, according to a new study that notes while the prevalence of such shortages fell from 2002 to 2007, the number of shortages sharply increased by 373% (from 26 to 123) from 2008 to 2014.

These medications are approved, but for various reasons manufacturers cannot meet demands or have stopped making the drugs.

“Many of those medications are for life-threatening conditions, and for some drugs no substitute is available,” said Dr. Jess Pines, senior author of the Academic Emergency Medicine study. “This means that in some cases, emergency department physicians may not have the medications they need to help people who are in serious need of them.”

Infectious Diseases Bring Millions of Elderly to Emergency Departments Each Year

In related news, investigators estimate that during 2012, there were more than 3.1 million emergency department visits for infectious diseases among elderly US adults.

This accounted for 13.5% of all emergency department visits of elderly adults, which was higher than visits for heart attacks and congestive heart failure combined. The rate of infectious disease–related emergency department visits was 7,231 per 100,000 elderly adults. The most common diagnoses were lower respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and septicemia.

Of all infectious disease–related emergency department visits, 57.2% resulted in hospitalization. Overall, 4.0% of patients died during their emergency department visit or hospitalization.

“With the rapid growth of the elderly population in the U.S., infectious diseases continue to be an important social problem. Our findings call for strategies to reduce infectious disease–related morbidity and healthcare utilization as a national priority for research, health policy, and community action,” said Dr. Tadahiro Goto, lead author of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study.

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