A recently published article in Academic Emergency Medicine highlights how dramatic drug shortages have affected emergency care since 2008.

Researchers conducted a study of longitudinal trends in US drug shortages within emergency medicine from January 2001 to March 2014. They utilized data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service and classified 1,798 shortages based on the following: whether they were within the scope of emergency medicine, whether they were used for lifesaving interventions or high-acuity conditions, and whether a substitute exists for its routine use in emergency care. 

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Over the 13-year study period, 33.9% of the shortages (n=610) were found to be within the scope of emergency medicine. About half (52.6%) of those drugs were used as lifesaving interventions, or for high-acuity conditions of which 10% were drugs with no available substitute. There was a decrease in emergency medicine drug shortages from 2002–2007. But there was a significant increase of shortages by 435% between January 2008 to March 2014. Specifically, in this time period there was a 393% increase in shortages of drugs used as direct lifesaving intervention or for high acuity conditions, and a 125% increase in shortages for drugs with no available substitutes.

Nearly half (46.6%) of all emergency medicine drug shortages were due to unknown reasons, with the manufacturers not stating any specific reason for the shortage. The most common emergency medicine drugs on shortage were infectious disease agents, totaling 148 shortages (for 2,213 months) during the study period. 

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