In a survey of purchasing agents and pharmacists at 549 hospitals on gray market activities associated with drug shortages, 52% of respondents indicated that they have purchased pharmaceutical products from gray market vendors during the past two years, reports the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). ISMP states that “When critical medications become scarce and are no longer available through a hospital’s usual channels of distribution, unscrupulous gray market distributors have been quick to jump in with inexplicably obtained supplies of these drugs that they are more than willing to sell to healthcare providers at exorbitant costs.” ISMP states that 56% of respondents indicated that they receive daily solicitations from up to 10 different gray market vendors, and that university hospitals reported more frequent solicitations from gray market vendors than did other types of hospitals. Respondents expressed concerns about how gray market vendors know about drug shortages before others, and where they are obtaining the products. The ISMP report also summarizes the reasons respondents do and do not purchase such products.
ISMP suggests “that a four-pronged strategy is needed to end the gray market domination of products in short supply.” ISMP suggests:
- Enhanced authority for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address ongoing drug shortages
- Implementing stronger regulations regarding the distribution of pharmaceutical products
- Taking steps in health care organizations to minimize the need for purchasing products from gray market vendors
- Regulatory and law enforcement action against illegal activities, such as counterfeiting and theft
More information about the survey results is available in an ISMP Medication Safety Alert.