The number of critical medication shortages in the United States has reached an unprecedented level, requiring decisions about allocating limited drug supplies. Ad hoc decisions are susceptible to arbitrary judgments, revealing preformed biases for or against groups of people. Health care institutions lack standardized protocols for rationing scarce drugs. We describe the principles on which an ethically justifiable policy of medication allocation during critical shortages was created at our hospital. Based on supportable scientific evidence and with all clinically similar patients treated as similarly deserving of consideration, drugs were distributed according to a hierarchy of clinical need and predicted efficacy. We explain the ethical rationale for the procedures we adopted, how the policy was implemented at a large academic medical center, and more than 1 year of experience with a number of different medications. Our experience has demonstrated the feasibility and utility of formulating a rational and ethically sound policy for scarce resource allocation in an academic teaching hospital that could be used in a variety of health care settings. The method has proven to be reliable, workable, and acceptable to clinicians, staff, and patients.
Thank you for submitting a comment on this article. It will be reviewed by JAMA Internal Medicine editors. You will be notified when your comment has been published. Comments should not exceed 500 words of text and 10 references.
Do not submit personal medical questions or information that could identify a specific patient, questions about a particular case, or general inquiries to an author. Only content that has not been published, posted, or submitted elsewhere should be submitted. By submitting this Comment, you and any coauthors transfer copyright to the journal if your Comment is posted.
* = Required Field
Disclosure of Any Conflicts of Interest*
Indicate all relevant conflicts of interest of each author below, including all relevant financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including, but not limited to, employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speakers’ bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued. If all authors have none, check "No potential conflicts or relevant financial interests" in the box below. Please also indicate any funding received in support of this work. The information will be posted with your response.
Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.
Download citation file:
Web of Science® Times Cited: 7
Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.
More Listings atJAMACareerCenter.com >
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a link to reset your password.
Enter your username and email address. We'll send instructions on how to reset your password to the email address we have on record.
Athens and Shibboleth are access management services that provide single sign-on to protected resources. They replace the multiple user names and passwords necessary to access subscription-based content with a single user name and password that can be entered once per session. It operates independently of a user's location or IP address. If your institution uses Athens or Shibboleth authentication, please contact your site administrator to receive your user name and password.