Drug Shortages: The Impact on the Patient/Anesthesia Professional Relationship

Letter to the Editor

I challenge you to ask yourself some introspective questions regarding anesthetic practice: Do you feel your autonomy threatened? With the constant problems of drug shortages and allocation of precious resources, how does this impact the anesthesia professional/patient relationship?

In the February 2019 APSF Newsletter issue, the topic of drug shortages was covered. One aspect of this problem requires more attention: How do we take care of our patients without the intended medications available to us? Many anesthesia professionals are employed by health care systems today. With that in mind, what rights do we have to consider postponing or cancelling elective procedures until these shortages abate? Additionally, what responsibilities do we have to notify our patients of the shortages and the need to use “alternative” medicines? Should our employers bear that responsibility? Alternatively, should we both share the burden?

I would hope that many of us have already thought of these questions and dealt with them in a way that personally gives you comfort and peace. However, if you haven’t, my hope is that this will inspire you to engage your colleagues to collectively determine appropriate solutions. Solutions that are keeping perioperative patient safety and quality of care as the end point. Involving everyone will ensure that whatever is decided, adequate supplies should be available.

Medicine is undergoing a tremendous evolution. Our relative autonomy feels threatened and, in many instances, we have become part of a collective business model to maximize profits. How we decide to accept and work within these parameters is individualistic. Nevertheless, it is imperative that our patients are always at the forefront of our practice. It is our responsibility to control and mitigate external factors and forces that constantly attempt to erode and threaten our commitment to patient safety and care.

Respectfully submitted,
Daniel J. Schoeck, MD
Retired Anesthesiologist
Toledo, OH


The author has no conflicts of interest pertaining to this article.