American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Full Court Press for AAEM and AAEM/RSA Drug Shortage Advocacy

Recent efforts by the AAEM Government Affairs Committee and the AAEM/RSA Advocacy Committee show promising results. We have been leveraging all possible advocacy strategies to raise the visibility of emergency medicine in solving the national drug shortage crisis.

As all emergency physicians are keenly aware, drug shortages are a growing problem. From 2005 to 2011, the number of drug shortages per year nearly quadrupled from 61 to over 220. Shortages now include critical emergency medications such as succinylcholine, morphine, and calcium gluconate. Click here for a current list. Thanks to our advocacy efforts, including working collaboratively with other stakeholders and participating in Capitol Hill meetings, policymakers are taking our concerns seriously and are addressing the shortage from a number of legislative and regulatory angles.

AAEM and AAEM/RSA have endorsed current legislation S.296 and H.R.2445, the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act, which propose to address drug shortages via the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Those public policy endorsement letters are available here. To examine the bills, go to the AAEM Legislative Action Center.

On April 16, AAEM and AAEM/RSA also participated in a rapidly organized symposium in Washington, D.C., on “The Impact of Drug Shortages on Emergency Care.” Hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the symposium gathered key role players in the issue to address causes and solutions to the problem.

We also have multiplied our clout by working with the 2011 Drug Shortages Summit Steering Group (DSSSG), comprising organizations such as the American Hospital Association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and the Institute for Safe Medication. With the DSSSG and 15 other health care organizations, AAEM and AAEM/RSA sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) urging improvements in draft legislation addressing the drug shortage crisis. By working in this informal coalition, our advocacy resulted in inserting into the coalition letter "emergency medicine drugs" along with the current “life-supporting” and “life-sustaining” drugs. Click here to examine the letter.

In addition to the Senate HELP Committee, we’ve also been conducting advocacy visits with congressional staff on the Senate Finance Committee. Similar to HELP, Finance has been examining the drug shortage crisis but from its jurisdictional lens of Medicare and Medicaid. AAEM and AAEM/RSA recently were invited by congressional staff to comment on potential legislation seeking solutions to the drug shortage through Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement incentives. We are actively involved with the DSSSG and the informal coalition to craft input for the Finance Committee that will include the interests of our patients and of our organization.

AAEM and AAEM/RSA will continue monitoring and engaging with key stakeholders in Washington, D.C., to ensure that the critical drug shortage issue is appropriately addressed. Your feedback is important! Contact your legislator through AAEM’s Legislative Action Center. Write to your members of Congress, and encourage them to work with their colleagues to address this critical issue. We have written articles to publicize the issue, which we welcome you to share with your congressional representatives. A recent article is found on pages 13-14 in this issue of Common Sense.


William T. Durkin, Jr., MD MBA FAAEM
President, American Academy of Emergency Medicine