AP IMPACT: Hospitals face drug price-gouging

By LINDA A. JOHNSON | September 23, 2011 | 2:35 AM EDT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A severe drug shortage of life-saving medications is endangering patients across the country. It's forcing hospitals to buy the drugs from secondary suppliers at exorbitant markups because they can't get them any other way.

The Associated Press found at least 15 recent deaths are blamed on the shortages. Either the right drug wasn't available or dosing errors or other problems in administering or preparing alternative medications resulted in preventable deaths.

The shortages mainly involve widely-used, generic injected drugs that ordinarily are cheap. The problem is delaying surgeries and cancer treatments, leaving patients in unnecessary pain and forcing hospitals to give less-effective treatments. That's resulted in complications and longer hospital stays.