Emory to host conference on ethics of the drug shortage

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | April 21, 2012

Contact

Vince Dollard
Media Inquiries
404-727-3366
vdollar@emory.edu

Tanya Anderson Woodward
Conference Information
404-727-1179
lande22@emory.edu

Story image

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) lists more than 200 drugs in short supply, most of which are sterile injectables that are on the verge of being unavailable.

The Emory University Center for Ethics in partnership with the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) will host a consensus conference on the critical drug shortage and its impact on patient health in the United States and Canada.  

Participants from various academic disciplines, industry, and different professional associations will gather on June 14-15, 2012, at the Emory University Center for Ethics in Atlanta to discuss the ethical concerns of this pressing issue and to provide a consensus report as a basis for future practice and policy actions.   

The conference at Emory will specifically address ethical issues, including: determinants of the drug supply, the role of pharmaceutical manufacturers; drug wastage and hoarding; distribution and equitable allocation; the protection of vulnerable patients; and who decides how to resolve these issues, including the role of federal oversight and regulation.

As of this writing, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) lists more than 200 drugs in short supply, most of which are sterile injectables that are on the verge of being unavailable.  Ninety eight percent of the 1,373 respondents surveyed by the ASA in April, 2011, reported having experienced a shortage of at least one anesthesia drug in the last year. Studies carried out by the Canadian Pharmacists Association are generating similar figures.  

The causes of the shortages remain elusive; the ramifications, however, are obvious and devastating. Recent shortages of cytarabine injections, for instance, threaten to not merely disrupt cancer care, but to deny leukemia patients their best or only hope of survival. Complaints pour into the FDA on a daily basis about the short supply of medicines to treat ADHD. The ASA reports that the unprecedented increase in the shortage of critical drugs – such as propofol, epinephrine, and succinylcholine – is not only compromising the induction and maintenance of anesthesia in various procedures, but is “resulting in the delay of needed medical treatments, the cancellation of elective surgeries, and in some cases death.”   

 “As a physician in the care of patients, I am very concerned by this worrisome trend,” says Joel Zivot, MD, medical director, cardio-thoracic intensive care unit at Emory University Hospital Midtown. “I take the position that, fundamentally, there should never be a disruption in drug supply critical to the practice of medicine.”   

This consensus conference will engage the many stakeholders involved in an ethics conversation that is pressing in light of the dramatic drug shortages that are seriously threatening human health.

For more information on the conference, please contact:  

Ms. Tanya Anderson Woodward
Emory University Center for Ethics
(404) 727-1179
lande22@emory.edu