It’s important to understand why many of today’s drug shortages are unlikely to end in the coming months. Healthcare facilities looking for ways to navigate this crisis need to be thinking long-term rather than implementing quick fixes or band-aid solutions.
Although it may seem counterintuitive given the current circumstances, drug manufacturers have become much better equipped to prevent drug shortages in recent years.
Over the last decade, the FDA has worked with pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to prevent hundreds of shortages. In fact, the number of new drug shortages reported each year in the United States has actually fallen significantly over the last decade – from a high of 251 in 2011 to just 41 in 2021.
The issue is, that although “new” shortages have fallen, many persist from year to year because the underlying causes aren’t easily solved, even with FDA intervention.
For example, in 2012, drug quality issues were the cause of two-thirds of drug shortages in the United States – a sticking point that the FDA has the ability to add, especially when it’s in the best interest of the public.
Now, however, many widely used medications are unavailable due to pervasive supply chain disruptions or an undersupply of critical raw materials. These factors are in part an aftereffect of the pandemic and could take months or even years to resolve in some cases.
Common Causes of Drug Waste
Today’s healthcare providers, nurses, and medical technicians need to become familiar with common causes of drug waste to implement effective strategies to minimize its occurrence in their practice. Drug waste can happen at several points of the pharmaceutical supply chain, including:
- During the manufacturing process, especially when there are quality control issues.
- While they’re being distributed. Drugs that require specific temperatures during storage may go to waste if they are stored for too long without refrigeration or if temperature controls fail during transport.
- Being discarded due to expiration. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to have listed expiration dates for all drugs that they produce. If a prescription drug isn’t dispensed before that date, it will have to be disposed of.
- Due to a temperature excursion at the healthcare facility. Much like during transport, medications can be dispensed or stored incorrectly. If they’re no longer viable for use, they’ll have to be discarded, increasing costs for the facility and limiting the supply available for patients.
- If patients discard their medication due to expiration, non-compliance, or another reason.
Several of these causes are outside of the control of healthcare facilities. But what is in their control: how pharmaceutical drugs are stored, dispensed, and administered to patients.
Using Automation to Combat Drug Waste and Protect Patient Safety
For over a decade or more, healthcare operations leaders have recognized the value of using automation to streamline medication distribution and prevent administration errors. Fortunately, technology has reached the point where healthcare inventory management can be almost entirely automated. Using software scanning and automated dispensing allows clinics to minimize or eliminate drug waste, ensuring healthcare workers are:
- Dispensing the correct medication for each patient.
- Using soon-to-expire doses to minimize drug waste due to expiration.
- Storing medications in a way that prevents excursions or contamination.
- Streamlining inventory reporting, protecting against possible drug diversion.
Minimize Waste and Maximize Efficiency with TruMed’s total inventory solutions.
Streamlining inventory management in healthcare has never been more critical to protect patient health. TruMed Systems has developed automated inventory systems that simplify inventory control and standardize dispensing workflows: AccuShelf Inventory Management and AccuVax Vaccine Management.
The AccuVax Vaccine Management System provides ideal temperature control to safeguard vaccines from excursions. It has an automatic inventory rotation feature to ensure that the vaccine dispensed is the next to expire. Additionally, the system has safety checks in place to verify that the correct vaccine is dispensed to the right patient.
From receipt through drug administration, AccuShelf delivers complete inventory transparency, trackable transfers between clinic locations, expiring med alerts, and inventory forecast reports – preventing medication stockouts and overstocking.
Learn more about TruMed’s inventory management solutions or schedule a live demo to see how the AccuShelf and AccuVax systems can benefit your practice.