(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- Many hospital patients are being turned away for potentially life-saving injection treatments in what may be the largest U.S. hospital drug shortage in over two decades.
Most drugs in short supply are known as injectables and include sedation medication such as propofol, the popular blood thinner heparin, and hard-hitting chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin.
"I've been in practice more than 30 years and this is the first time I've encountered shortages that may affect patient care," said Dr. Michael Link, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Limited manufacturing, lagging production time, and lack of profits from these drugs are contributing to the shortage, according to an August 2010 editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The production cost outweighs the profits for some companies. Since many firms would rather produce cheaper generic drugs, manufacturers are shunning some costly brands.
Doctors at local hospitals are frustrated and many times they're not even informed of the shortage, according to survey results released in September by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they were given little to no information on how long the shortages would last.
And since these medications are mainly housed in hospitals, most patients won't know it might not be available until they really need it.
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