Can Pharmacists Step in to Help the Drug Shortage Problem?

DECEMBER 28, 2011
This was the headline: “Hospitals Cut Doses as a Result of Drug Shortage.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, “hospitals have had to cut doses and ration supplies of nutrition drugs and disinfectant products. The situation is part of a broader drug shortage that has federal health officials rethinking how they monitor the nation’s pharmaceutical supply. While shortages of chemotherapy and anesthesia drugs have received much attention, now they are looking at the shortage of nutrition drugs and disinfectant products.”

There have been many newspaper stories about drug shortages, I suspect, suggested by those who want to see legislation passed to address the problem. The proposed legislation will require early reporting of upcoming drug shortages so that better planning to address them could occur. But I don’t think I have read any stories that suggest that maybe pharmacists—and perhaps pharmacy education—could address this problem by increasing the training of pharmacists to be able to compound these needed items.

In my training as a pharmacist, compounding skills were a major part of my education. I don’t think all pharmacists today need those skills, but maybe just some pharmacists do so they can respond to these types of drug shortage situations. When I entered hospital practice, we routinely compounded some products we could buy around the theory that we could then justify keeping the equipment needed to do compounding and have trained staff that could do it.

Could this create a new niche market opportunity for the pharmacy entrepreneur? I think so, but maybe I am just an older pharmacists living in the past. What do you think?

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