Hospitals hunt substitutes as drug shortages rise

WASHINGTON (AP) - Medical experts say a growing shortage of medications for a host of illnesses - from cancer to cystic fibrosis to cardiac arrest is troubling.

Hospitals sometimes scramble for substitutes to avoid patient harm, and even delay treatment.  There are lots of causes, from recalls to factory shutdowns.  Some experts pointedly note that pricier brand-name drugs seldom are in short supply.

The problem isn't a new one but it's getting markedly worse. The number listed in short supply has tripled over the past five years, to a record 211 medications last year.

While some of those have been resolved, another 89 drug shortages have occurred in the first three months of this year, according to the University of Utah's Drug Information Service. It tracks shortages for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

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