Flu Vaccine Tip of Drug Shortage

Ongoing drug shortages are having far-ranging, negative effects on patient care and on health costs in the US, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). As ASHP pharmacist David Witmer put it, "Because of shortages, pharmacists must select and purchase substitute products as well as determine proper dosing regimens, modify drug-use policies and procedures, educate various health care personnel, and restock the supplies through the facility. All of these extra steps increase risk and add unnecessary costs to the heath system."

Now the US has another disastrous drug shortage to contend with -- the flu vaccine. Chiron Corp. announced this week that it will be unable to supply flu vaccine to the US for the 2004-05 flu season, creating an instant and severe vaccine shortage just as the flu season begins.

Comment: This is a very bad situation in a country that considers itself a world leader. The flu vaccine problem is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. Just under it looms the vulnerable supplies of all vaccines used in the US. And beneath the vaccines is a massive mess with other drugs.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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