In case you were busy last night catching up on DVR'd episodes of America's Got Talent like our family was, you may have missed the earth-shattering news from our nation's capital: A significant piece of health care legislation sailed through the House on a 387-5 vote, following a 96-1 Senate vote last week. A reconciled bill could make it to President Obama's desk for signature by early next week.

 

I know. I'm just as stunned as you. Health care legislation receiving overwhelming bipartisan support, what's next, the Cubs winning four games in a row? Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, referring to the FDA reauthorization bill (H.R. 5651 and S. 3187) that garnered such tremendous support, was quoted saying, "This bill is a shining example of what we can achieve when we all work together."

Importantly for hospitals and other health care providers, the legislation includes provisions aimed squarely at alleviating the drug shortage that's been wreaking havoc for the past couple of years. Among other things, the legislation would put new requirements on drug manufacturers to notify the government of potential shortages. The feds, then, could take action to mitigate any shortage, such as finding other suppliers.

"Hospitals have taken action to reduce the impact of shortages on patients, including increasing inventories, buying alternative drugs and training clinical staff on how to deal with drug shortages," American Hospital Association President Rich Umbdenstock said in a statement this morning. "This new legislation will help ease the strain that hospitals across the country have faced in dealing with shortages."

This should be welcome news to weary health care providers. As we — and others — have reported during the past couple of years, the drug shortage is taking a serious toll. From price gouging on the grey market to providers having to delay or cancel patient procedures, everyone is at risk. I just wrapped up an article on pharmacy operations for the June issue of H&HN and practically every conversation started out with the drug shortage. As I note in the piece, it is topic 1, 2, and 3 for pharmacy managers. There's no getting around it. Or is there?

One pharmacy manager I interviewed said that his hospital is going to compound drugs that are otherwise too hard to find in the marketplace. Others admitted — not for attribution — that they are contributing to the problem by stockpiling. They can't risk being without certain medications.

Both of those options are legitimate responses to this crisis, but I'm curious what else is happening out there. What ideas are being bandied about? How is your hospital responding? Send me your comments and thoughts. We want to know how hospitals are grappling with this critical issue. You can email me at mweinstock@healthforum.com.