Nearly all thirty most frequently used emergency department drugs experienced shortages from 2006-2019
BACKGROUND:Drug shortages contribute to avoidable medication error and patient harm; these shortages are exacerbated in the Emergency Department due to the time-sensitive nature of acute care. METHODS:We performed a cross-sectional study to describe the frequency and duration of drug shortages associated with the most frequent medications administered in the ED. We identified the most frequently used ED medications and calculated number of visits associated with these medications using the 2006-2019 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. We obtained the frequency and duration of shortages associated with these medications from the University of Utah Drug Information System. We calculated duration and total ED visits associated with shortages of the most frequently used ED medications. RESULTS:From 2006 through 2019, the most frequently used drugs were ondansetron (255.1 million ED visits), 0.9% normal saline (251.3 million ED visits), and ibuprofen (188.5 million ED visits). All but two of the top thirty most frequently used medications experienced a shortage. The median shortage duration was 425 days, while the longest were for injectable morphine (3,202 days). The number of ED visits associated with drugs experiencing shortages increased from 2,564,425 (2.2% of U.S. ED visits) in 2006 to 67,221,968 (60.4%) in 2019. The most common reasons for shortage include manufacturing delays and increased demand. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE/CONCLUSIONS:Drug shortages were more frequent and persistent from 2006 through 2019. Further studies on the clinical impact of these shortages are needed, in addition to policy interventions to mitigate shortages.