Surging Drug Costs Wreak Havoc on Hospital Pharmacies

It’s no secret that drug costs are going up, sometimes by a lot.  Not only is there an impact for the patient, but hospitals across the country are dealing with the fallout too.

At one hospital, the cost of the 20 highest-priced drugs went up by an average of more than 10 percent over the past year and a half. That’s a $2 million price tag!

For the most common drugs used at this hospital, such as analgesics, anesthesia drugs and surgical drugs, the price hikes over the past year and a half have ranged from 125 percent to more than 5,000 percent!

How hospitals are dealing with rate surges:

Hospital administrators are counting on the pharmacy to take an active role in handling these price increases. Many health organizations are adding to their clinical services, attempting to work with physicians more closely. Part of this process is paying close attention to expensive drugs to ensure they are only used when necessary. Some hospitals have an active therapeutic interchange program to help in this effort.

In the past, according to one hospital administrator, the hospital did not pay much attention to price changes from drug wholesalers. But that has changed. They are now actively managing drug acquisitions every day – scrutinizing the drugs they buy and how they are administered much more carefully.

Alternative drug use on the rise:

As rates increase for some drugs, pharmacies are more proactively searching for alternatives. When the price of one drug, nitroprusside, increased dramatically, one hospital dropped it from the formulary after comparing treatment costs of the drug with alternative drugs. The nitroprusside would have cost the hospital eight to 60 times more than the other drugs.

Another hospital responded to price increases in isoproterenol by changing the way it administers the drug. The hospital looked into how and where the drug was used; then began stocking the drug in smaller vials, which absorbed some of the price increase.

In the past, the hospital premixed IV bags with isoproterenol to be used for cardiology and intensive care. Now they don’t prepare the bags until they are actually needed.

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