Drug shortages have certainly affected a lot of people. Though the problem is slowly getting better, many hospitals, paramedics, physicians, and individuals have to look elsewhere for their drugs or, in some cases, have to completely go without them. Hartley Medical has been following the drug shortage crisis, and many experts agree that it could take years to get supplies back to normal levels. So what does this mean for those facing medical emergencies? What are they supposed to do if they need a medication they cannot get? Apparently one answer is to turn to expired drugs.

I recently read an article by Jonathon Cooper entitled, “Paramedics Turn to Expired Drugs Due to Shortages” stating that:

“Emergency responders in various jurisdictions have reported turning to last resort practices as they struggle to deal with a shortage of drug supplies created by manufacturing delays and industry changes.“

Tom Wright, emergency medical services coordinator for the Bend Fire Department in Central Oregon, said that:

“We’ve never (before) had to go diving back into the bin to try to retrieve expired boxes of drugs. We had the backing of our insurance company that giving expired drugs is better than giving no drugs at all.”

According Cooper’s article, the Bend Fire Department has been administering outdated medications for about a year. Why is this okay? Because medications are only guaranteed to work as intended until their expiration date. However, when stored properly, most medications are not harmful to patients – they just get less effective with time.

Reading this article re-opened a discussion that Hartley Medical presented back in April when an article was released by Jamie Oh entitled, “Pharmacy Professionals Believe CMS Rules Contribute to Drug Shortages.” This article expressed that:

“Almost all surveyed pharmacy professionals believe outdated federal mandates requiring adherence to drug labels and expiration dates contribute to the national drug shortage, according to an American Medical News report.”

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) surveyed 715 hospital-based pharmacists and pharmacy managers and found that 96 percent of respondents consider a CMS mandate to follow FDA-approved drug labels and expiration dates a contributor to the drug shortages. According to the report, respondents believe that some drugs may have a longer shelf life – demonstrated through medical research.

Therefore, if emergency medical response teams are using expired medications to treat patients, and medical research demonstrates that drugs have a longer shelf life than the stated expiration date, are drug stability labels in fact outdated? Patient safety is at the forefront of all medical professionals’ minds; therefore, we would never provide patients with drugs that could be harmful or life-threatening. If science has proven that drugs are stable beyond current federal mandates, is extending use dates something that we should consider to help with the drug shortage crisis?

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

Hartley Medical has been compounding medications for a number of physicians and hospitals that have been affected by the drug shortages. We have an unwavering dedication to provide only the highest-quality sterile pharmaceuticals; therefore, we continue to compound these medications only to the highest of quality standards.

If Hartley Medical can assist you in any way during these shortages, please contact us. We are here to serve you.

For more information on use dating, visit our past blog entry entitled, “Use Dating: Are Drug Stability Labels Outdated?

For more information on the drug shortage crisis, visit Hartley Medical’s Knowledge Center by clicking here.