ASA: Drug shortages continue to impact anesthesiologists and patients

A guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to

by Mark A. Warner, MD

Drug shortages of a number of drugs, including anesthetics, continue to impact anesthesiologists and patients each day. Throughout the shortages, anesthesiologists will be committed to ensuring patients remain safe and receive quality care.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recently administered an online Drug Shortages Survey to anesthesiologists to determine how widespread shortages of anesthesia drugs are. Findings revealed that more than 90 percent of respondents are currently experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthetic. Within the last year, more than 98 percent of respondents experienced an anesthesia drug shortage.

The survey findings also showed that the drug shortages are having an impact on patient care. While many anesthesiologists have been able to work through the shortages by using alternative medications, some anesthesiologists have had to postpone or cancel procedures. Also, longer operating room and recovery times are increasing health care costs for patients and insurers who underwent procedures during a shortage.

It is important that patients who are about to undergo anesthesia have a physician who practices anesthesiology involved in their care. Anesthesiologists are specifically trained to provide safe care despite the need to use alternative anesthetics when the first-choice drug is in short supply or not available.

ASA encourages patients who are concerned about the drug shortages to speak with their anesthesiologist to find out whether the shortages are impacting their particular hospitals or surgery centers. For more information, please visit Anesthesia Drug Shortages and You.

Mark A. Warner is President of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

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