WIHI: Managing Medication Shortage: Best Practices for a Crisis

Date: September 22, 2011


  • Frank Federico, RPh, Executive Director, Strategic Partners, Institute for Healthcare Improvement​
  • Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, ScD, FASHP, President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices
  • Lynn Eschenbacher, PharmD, MBA, Assistant Director of Clinical Services and Director PGY-1 Pharmacy Residency Program, WakeMed Health and Hospitals


Medication safety has gotten a lot more challenging in the past year or so, due to circumstances health care providers can’t typically predict or control: a growing, critical shortage of prescription drugs, hundreds of them, including mainstay generics hospitals use to treat several forms of cancer.  News organizations have begun to pay attention to the trend because of the tough decisions providers and patients now face when preferred treatments for certain types of aggressive leukemia or testicular cancer aren’t available.

A recent story on The PBS NewsHour offers one of the more comprehensive looks at the underlying industry practices, product decisions, and manufacturing problems that have led to the crisis—a crisis that’s enabled a gray market to now traffic in scarce supplies of certain drugs in order to offer them for sale at astronomically higher prices. 

Against this backdrop, and while policy makers, members of Congress, and the US Food and Drug Administration seek both short-term and longer-term solutions, hospitals have no choice but to develop strategies and best practices that assume, for now, prescription drug shortages. WIHI host Madge Kaplan welcomes three people who have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on and are actively working to help organizations effectively manage a complex situation. IHI’s Frank Federico, the ISMP’s Michael Cohen, and WakeMed’s Lynn Eschenbacher are three pharmacy-trained improvers who’ve tapped their expertise on medication safety to come up with new strategies that can enable hospital staff to stay on top of the fast-moving drug shortage problem on a daily basis. Learn how Lynn Eschenbacher’s hospital system in particular is effectively dealing with the crisis. 
Additional information:

  • Read an article in Healthcare Executive about the drug shortages, written by Frank Federico, Bona Benjamin, and Michael Cohen.
  • We’d also draw your attention to a Premier healthcare alliance analysis of the gray market, which provides critical facts and guidance for hospital pharmacists and staff who purchase prescriptions.




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