Another hospital group targets drug shortages and says blood pressure drug metoprolol up first

Doctor computer
Healthcare purchasing group Premier says its new subsidiary will soon have available for sale metoprolol injection, a blood pressure medication often used to treat patients experiencing hypertensive emergencies, which has been in shortage since 2016. (Getty/andrei_r)

Healthcare management company Premier has pledged to attack hospital drug shortages in the U.S. and has created a new subsidiary to focus exclusively on the problem. It says its first offering will be to market soon.

Premier, a publicly traded company and purchasing organization that is majority owned by healthcare providers, last month announced the formation of ProvideGx to help its members get their hands on drugs that are perpetually in shortage. Today it announced its first will be injected blood pressure medication metoprolol.

ProvideGx has struck a deal with Baxter International to manufacture and supply injected drugs that have been hard for hospitals to get. It said metoprolol, which has been in shortage since 2016, will be available at “competitive price points” to any health system or healthcare provider.

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“Premier is committed to aggregating provider demand for products and creating a predictable sales channel for suppliers,” Premier COO Michael J. Alkire said in a statement. “This agreement allows Premier to work with Baxter on mitigating shortages that have plagued the market for years."

A spokesperson said Premier has had "91 shortage drugs available through legacy programs," but metoprolol is the first for the ProvideGx program. She said it should be available by mid-February. 

RELATED: Hospitals, sick of drug shortages, take matters into their own hands

The formation of ProvideGx follows the decision last year by about 120 hospitals to band together to battle shortages and high drug costs.

Civica Rx was also created out of the frustration of hospitals over perpetual shortages of some drugs, some as mundane as saline, and others as key as injected opioids for postsurgical pain. It said it will focus initially on 14 hospital-administered generic drugs that are in chronic shortage and expects to get those to members this year. Board Chairman Dan Liljenquist has said that will include some generic pills and patches as well as injectable drugs for treating infections, pain and heart conditions. Civica Rx also plans to rely on contract manufacturing, but if needed, has indicated it might build its own manufacturing facilities.

RELATED: Pfizer halts sales of injectable opioids to veterinarians as shortages persist

For years now, hospitals have had to battle drug shortages and price hikes. A shortage of simple saline solution has created a big headache for healthcare providers, while manufacturing issues at a Pfizer Hospira plant have led to shortages of intravenous pain drugs. The supply interruptions sometimes force hospitals to ration drugs or make decisions on which patients get certain drugs.

Experts representing providers said that even when supplies return to normal, they don't experience the price relief they would expect. Drugmakers have responded by explaining that the margins on many drugs have been too thin for too many years and that the cost of upgrading manufacturing plants and supply chains has led to the need for higher prices.

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