Survey Finds Most Pharmacy Departments Not Prepared for Pandemic Flu

Additional planning, preparation needed to address issues such as supply chain integrity

Irving, TX — August 21, 2007 — Novation LLC, the health care contracting services company of VHA Inc. and the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), surveyed pharmaceutical executives to determine the status of their pandemic disaster preparations. While all of the hospitals surveyed reported they have identified to some extent the key pharmaceuticals required in the event of an outbreak, concerns about the appropriate quantities to maintain and the associated cost of additional inventory remain.

Five percent of respondents stated that they are fully prepared for a pandemic event while more than three-quarters of respondents (78 percent) said they have made some preparations for a pandemic outbreak. In comparison, 16 percent said they are not at all prepared for such a disaster scenario.

"Our survey provides real insight into the challenge hospitals face in preparing for a global flu pandemic," said Steven Lucio, director, clinical solutions at Novation. "While hospitals have spent time trying to ensure certain key pharmaceuticals are on hand in the event of a pandemic, much additional planning and preparation is needed to address issues such as supply chain integrity, security and the maintenance of key pharmacy services."

Novation distributed online questionnaires to 204 pharmaceutical executives from hospital members of VHA Inc., and the University HealthSystem Consortium. Forty-two responses were received for a 21 percent response rate.

The survey asked pharmaceutical executives about items included in their organizations' pandemic disaster plans. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said their plans address antibiotics for the treatment of pneumonia and secondary infections, 85 percent include the use of antivirals and more than half (53 percent) address the use of bronchodilators. Forty-four percent of respondents currently include the use of sedative and pain management medications in their preparedness plans. Almost half of respondents (47 percent) said their plans take into consideration the inpatient pharmacy's role in providing outpatient prescriptions if access to retail pharmacies is compromised by a pandemic outbreak.

Less than half of respondents (44 percent) have established plans for automatic delivery of additional pharmaceuticals from wholesalers upon notification of an outbreak. Similarly, 44 percent of respondents have prioritized which key pharmacy services can be maintained during a pandemic. About one-third (35 percent) have developed a disaster formulary that includes drug substitution strategies in the event of limited drug supplies. Many respondents indicated that their hospitals have not explored the possibility of cross-training pharmacists and/or technicians to support services traditionally reserved for other clinicians. More than half of respondents (55 percent) said their organizations have designated a specific job title to serve as the lead role in disaster preparedness. Examples of job titles for this role include chief nurse executive, pharmacy director, vice president of planning and development and chief executive officer.

Overall, pharmaceutical executives indicated that financial support to expand inventory and additional guidelines regarding which medications should be stocked and their appropriate quantities would be helpful in preparing for a pandemic outbreak.

To help hospitals prepare for disasters, Novation has developed a Disaster Supply Needs Assessment Tool. The tool calculates supplies needed on-hand based on bed count and/or surge capacity to care for patients for one week. Novation also offers a Pandemic/Outbreaks Resource Guide that provides resources to assist members in preparing to treat patients and protect health care workers in the event of a disaster.