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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Facing drug shortages, ASC leaders ask CDC to clarify 'single use' vials

While emphasizing they are following all infection control guidelines, ambulatory surgery center leaders are lobbying public health officials to reconsider and clarify policies on single-use vials in light of current drug shortages.

“There is a larger issue of the problem that drug shortages are causing,” says Bill Prentice, JD, chief executive officer of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association. “I have heard from centers that have had to turn patients away and say, ‘I’m sorry we can’t treat you today because we do not have the drugs to safely perform your surgery.”

Moreover, some of the scarce drugs are shipped in vials labeled single-dose, though they may contain more medication than needed for one patient.

“We are experiencing a lot of drug shortages on some of the major anesthetic drugs in particular that are used in ASCs,” he says. “I’m hearing from our members that because of the packaging and size of these vials that they end up using a small amount of the injectable and then throwing the remainder away – which is a complete waste to the health care system.”

Prentice and colleagues recently sought clarification on the issue in a meeting with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The question was essentially is there any process “that would allow a center to use a single-use vial on more than one patient in some aseptic way?” Prentice says. “Not reusing the needle -- not reusing the syringe. We wanted to ask that question as well as find out what is the science behind their current protocols regarding single use.”

For more on this story see the next issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention