US propofol drug shortages: A review of the problem and stakeholder analysis

Christopher Hvisdas, Andrea Lordan, Laura T. Pizzi, Brandi N. Thoma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Drug shortages have increased in recent years in the United States, with a majority involving sterile injectable drugs. Propofol, a sterile injectable drug, is frequently used as a sedative, thanks to its rapid onset of action and a short recovery period. However, propofol is complicated and expensive to manufacture, and recent events involving major manufacturers have led to shortages of the drug in the United States. Objectives: To review the events leading to the shortage of propofol and to discuss how the shortage is affecting various healthcare stakeholders, as an example of the systemwide problem of drug shortages in the United States. Discussion: Manufacturers currently have little economic incentive to produce propofol, a generic drug whose production is costly and carries a high liability. The enforcement of good manufacturing practices by the US Food and Drug Administration is beneficial for the safety of US citizens, but it can inherently lead to a sudden halt in the manufacturers' production of drugs. Hospitals are affected because they must develop a plan to address current and potential shortages, including restricting the use of medications that have a shortage and shifting to alternative agents. Conclusion: The shortage of propofol significantly impacted the delivery of care in the United States in 2009, and various stakeholders are working to increase the existing supply of propofol and to investigate the use of alternative medications when the supply runs short. The case of propofol presented in this article is used to illustrate a systemwide view of the impact of drug shortages on the US healthcare system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Health and Drug Benefits
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 28 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Strategy and Management

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