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Drug shortages tie doctors hands in treatment options

Patients seeking the best medical care focus on factors such as a hospital’s safety record, a surgeon’s success rate or testimonials from former patients. When something goes wrong, patients often investigate these same sources first in medical malpractice lawsuits, but these may not be the groups at fault.

A number of medical malpractice suits involve allegations of injuries that are less obvious, less hard to define than claims involving incidents such as wrong-site surgeries or situations involving foreign objects left in a body during a procedure.

Complications due to delayed treatment are one area where doctors need to present a strong defense and a clear argument to combat allegations that they failed to take reasonable actions in a reasonable amount of time.

What happens when the doctors’ hands are tied in their treatment options? Could a third-party be to blame? What if doctors cannot obtain the tools, like prescription medications, necessary to treat their patients?

Doctors across the nation have reported a shortage of valuable medications used to treat serious and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. A trend that has continued since 2010, when there were just over 100 drugs catalogued in short supply, as reported by The Wall Street Journal using data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service.

The peak of drug shortages was at its highest late in 2014, when the number of drugs in short supply was higher than 300. Although the exact numbers have dipped up and down over the years, the average continued to increase over the measured period.

It is having an effect on individual treatment plans. A urologist who practices in Albany, New York, noted that the shortage of medication forced him to delay treating several of his bladder cancer patients. Another urologist noted that delays do increase the risk that a tumor will return in some patients.

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