Drug Shortages: Every Physician's Worst Nightmare!
The journey to achieving excellence in the medical career is marked by lessons from multiple sources. For instance, the online / onsite MCAT training course teaches the significance of analytical thinking, the volunteer programs showcase the need for empathy and the shadowing experience helps show them the reality of the medical world. Above all these traits and characteristic features of a physician lies his/her promise with the ethics of the profession. Drug shortages in the US have existed for more than a decade and have proved to be a real challenge to the ethical practice of a doctor.
What is drug shortage?
The US healthcare sector has been battling insufficient supply of all types of drugs such as painkillers, antibiotics, oncology drugs anaesthetics and more in the past few years. The inability to face the demand for drugs is termed as "drug shortage". Drug shortage may be due to several reasons like,
- Pharmaceutical supply chain problems
- Manufacturing troubles
- Drug manufacturers abandoning low-profit products
- Compliance and safety issues
How do physicians tackle the drug shortage problem?
During a drug shortage crisis, physicians are faced with the challenge of choosing one patient over another and the intensity of such a situation can never be easy on the doctor. Some hospitals have a formal committee in place to decide who gets the drugs and who doesn't! Some hospitals give preference to kids and some hospitals try to work their own logic of drug administration which increases the chances of medically questionable practices. Alternative treatments (alternative drugs or type of treatment) can also be administered to patients during drug shortages but studies indicate the occurrence of adverse consequences like side effects, medication errors and deaths in some cases.
Drug shortages test the ethics of physicians
How can a physician value the life of one patient over another? During drug shortages difficult decisions are required to be made by physicians despite how harsh it sounds. Almost every hospital in the US faces drug shortage troubles and doctors have no standard ethical guidelines to prescribe medicines during such critical situations. Another facet of the problem is the need to let patients know that they are being administered an alternative drug or their normal course of nutritional supplement is lacking a particular component due to the drug shortage. The pharmaceutical industry and the government must work towards meeting the demands of the nation. However, it is important for doctors to be assisted with the right guidelines and use a patient representative to tackle such a situation.
As a student who is inspired by the nobility of the medical profession and is taking the pressure from multiple activities like an onsite / online MCAT training course, volunteer programs, school tests etc. one must understand the fact that professional ethics does not come from the written rules of healthcare but from within a medical practitioner.