Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report Finds Drug Shortages Persist in Hospital Pharmacies


More than 53% of survey respondents reported having a diversion event within the last year, in addition to 37% who were aware of at least 1 colleague who has diverted controlled substances.

Recent findings from Kit Check’s fourth annual Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report showed that more than 53% of survey respondents reported having a diversion event within the last year, in addition to 37% who were aware of at least 1 colleague who has diverted controlled substances.

This year, 237 top hospital pharmacy leadership professionals were surveyed to further capture the expectations and circumstances that reflect the state of pharmacy operations in more than 1000 US hospitals prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the Kit Check press release.

According to Kevin MacDonald, Kit Check CEO and co-founder, the company uses a third-party vendor to conduct the survey, with approximately 44% of respondents having between 1 and 5 hospitals in their health system, and 55% having between 6 and more than 20 hospitals in their system.

Respondents who were familiar with diversion events in their organizations found that 47% stated that drugs were diverted from waste or leftover medications, whereas 27% reported diversion directly from patients, according to the survey. This supports MacDonald’s need to address the ongoing opioid epidemic and get the under-discussed contributor of drug diversion in hand in the United States.

“Using our AI technology, we can see that about 12% of the 9 million cases our software has reviewed contain a variance, meaning the controlled substance has taken an anomalous path to administration or waste that triggers an audit by a pharmacist or manager,” MacDonald said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “This critical information is important to address in order to mitigate the root issue of opioid addiction.”

Additionally, MacDonald mentioned that drug shortages ranked as the top challenge facing pharmacy personnel, with approximately 60% of pharmacy staff indicating that they dealt with up to 20 medication shortages at a time.

“It’s clear that pharmacists must have tools available to have deep insight into medication intelligence throughout the supply chain so that patients can get the medication they need,” MacDonald said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®.

Further results showed that nearly 80% of respondents reported patient safety as the most important factor when it comes to securing budgets for new technology implementations within the pharmacy. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed reported dealing with at least 1 drug recall every year, and approximately 50% of respondents dealt with up to 9 recalls every year. The majority of respondents reported spending up to 5 hours handling each recall, according to the Kit Check press release.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, MacDonald told Pharmacy Times® that drug shortages are as important now than before due to the increased shortages around the medications COVID-19 patients have been using to fight the virus.

“We’re seeing shortages of drugs needed for intubation such as etomidate, propofol, ketamine, rocuronium and fentanyl, in addition to hydroxychloroquine, being used to treat the virus itself,” MacDonald said in an interview with Pharmacy Times®. “Keeping track of shortages as well as potential diversion of medications is an ongoing issue that all hospitals need to prioritize for the health and safety of patients and staff.”

In regard to continuing to combat these issues in hospital pharmacies and protecting the future of pharmacy, MacDonald emphasized the essential task for pharmacists to protect the pharmaceutical supply chain. Although strides have been made, MacDonald told Pharmacy Times® that it is clear the industry needs to work harder toward a secure drug supply chain through increased surveillance in the medication chain of custody, particularly when it comes to organizational strategies related to patients and pharmacy personnel.

“With the opioid crisis impacting hospital departments of all sizes and specialties, committing to a diversion committee and implementing automated software are critical first steps toward true medication intelligence that directly impacts patient care, and provider and staff wellbeing,” MacDonald said.

As for future surveys, MacDonald said Kit Check is planning to use the same methodology to gain valuable insight into year-to-year changes and developments. To highlight the impact of COVID-19, MacDonald told Pharmacy Times® that questions may be added asking pharmacists about their experience with the supply chain in a time of crisis and how their roles were affected.


Kit Check Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report Reveals Over a Third of Hospital Pharmacy Professionals Are Aware of at Least One Colleague Who Has Stolen Controlled Substances [news release]. Washington; Kit Check: April 21, 2020. Accessed April 21, 2020.

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