KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

When There’s Only Enough For One, Doctors Faced With ‘Tragic Choice’: Who Gets The Medication?

Drug shortages are the new normal in American medicine, but the decisions around which patient gets the medication is causing murky ethical quandaries and questionable medical practices for physicians. In other patient news, STAT examines why mix-ups, which can lead to fatal errors, happen with such frequency.

The New York Times: Drug Shortages Forcing Hard Decisions On Rationing Treatments
In recent years, shortages of all sorts of drugs — anesthetics, painkillers, antibiotics, cancer treatments — have become the new normal in American medicine. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists currently lists inadequate supplies of more than 150 drugs and therapeutics, for reasons ranging from manufacturing problems to federal safety crackdowns to drugmakers abandoning low-profit products. But while such shortages have periodically drawn attention, the rationing that results from them has been largely hidden from patients and the public. (Fink, 1/29)

STAT: Patient Mix-Ups Happen More Often Than You Might Think. Why The Easy Fix Isn't Easy At All.
Identifying patients correctly is one of a health provider’s most basic functions. Get it wrong, and anything from a billing mistake to a catastrophic medical error may follow. Yet in the United States, hospitals and medical practices routinely mix up identities — or, more generally, fail to match the all right records with a patient. Nationally, according to a study from the RAND Corporation, health providers mismatch patients and records 8 percent of the time on average. (McQuaid, 1/28)

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