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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2019 Feb 25. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001773. [Epub ahead of print]

Prescription Drug Shortages: Pediatric Emergency and Critical Care Medications.

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Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC.
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.
US Acute Care Solutions, Canton, OH.
Medstar Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC.



Drug shortages have been increasing over the past 2 decades. There are limited data on drug shortages and their effect on pediatric emergency and critical care. Our objective was to describe pediatric emergency and critical care drug shortages.


Drug shortage data from January 2001 to December 2015 were obtained from the University of Utah Drug Information Services. Shortages were reviewed, identifying agents used in pediatric emergency and critical care. Shortage data were analyzed for the type of drug, formulation, shortage reason, duration, marketing status (generic vs brand name), or if it was a pediatric-friendly formulation, used for a high-acuity condition, or a single-source product. The availability of a substitute was also described.


Of 1883 products on shortage, 779 were used in pediatric emergency or critical care. The annual number of shortages decreased from 2001 to 2004, but then increased, reaching a high in 2011. The median duration for resolved shortages was 7.6 months (interquartile range, 3.0-17.6 months). The most common category affected was infectious disease drugs. High-acuity agents were involved in 27% of shortages and in 11% of pediatric-friendly formulations. An alternative agent was available for 95% of drugs, yet 43% of alternatives were also affected at some time during the study period. The most common reported reason for a shortage was manufacturing problems.


From 2001 to 2015, drug shortages affected a substantial number of agents used in pediatric emergency and critical care. This has had implications to the medications available for use and may impact patient outcomes. Providers must be aware of current shortages and implement mitigation strategies to optimize patient care.

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