Hospital pharmacy expenses per occupied bed almost doubled between 1987 and 1994, despite efforts to hold down costs with formularies and automated drug dispensing systems.
In 1994 hospitals spent an average of $21,438 per occupied bed on drugs, intravenous fluids, pharmacy personnel and other pharmacy items. In 1987 they spent $11,385 per occupied bed.
That's one finding of a survey of 393 hospitals by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. It has conducted seven similar surveys since 1975 to track pharmacy trends. Results of the latest survey were published in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists.
Pharmacy expenses per occupied bed climbed 14.5% from 1992 to 1994. They've grown 45.7% since 1990 and 88.3% since 1987.
The steady ascent reflects in part the fact that inpatients today are sicker. But rising prices for drugs and IV fluids also contributed, the society said.
An editorial accompanying its study, however, argues that hospitals shouldn't isolate pharmacy spending if it results in lower overall healthcare costs.
Drug expenses per occupied bed averaged $14,004 and made up 65.3% of total pharmacy expenses. In 1992, the last year for which data is available, drugs consumed 62.4% of the pharmacy budget.
Hospitals with fewer than 50 beds spent $15,531 on drugs per occupied bed, significantly more than larger facilities. For-profit hospitals, on the other hand, devoted $9,496 to drugs per occupied bed.
Results aren't adjusted to reflect differences in patient population, acuity, the use of personnel and other factors that shape expenses.
Additional findings of the study:
Sixty percent of respondents reported that their hospitals used well-controlled formulary systems to encourage physicians to use the most effective or lowest-priced drugs.
Some 46% of respondents said their facilities had cut pharmacy staff. Staff reductions were due largely to declining admissions and hospital reorganizations.
About 89% of respondents said some pharmacy operations had been computerized. The survey forecasts that 93% of pharmacy departments will have computerized pharmacy systems by the end of 1995.