No national data exist on hospice medication shortages, the frequency that opioid medications go missing, and drug disposal practices.
To provide national estimates for hospices on: drug shortages; frequency of missing medications; and opioids left in the home post-death.
A national survey of 600 randomly selected hospices stratified by state and profit status (data collection 2018). Sample weights were applied to adjust for non-response. Respondents were hospice representatives knowledgeable about agency policies and practices. Participants reported their knowledge and perceptions about medication shortages, frequency that opioid medications go missing, and the proportion of hospice deaths in which opioids are left in the home. Findings were stratified by agency size.
371 hospices completed surveys (response rate=62%), half (50%) of which were mid-sized (26-100 patients), and not-for-profit. Respondents had 7.5 years (SD=7.7) of agency experience. 42% of hospices – and 61% of large hospices – reported medication shortages. Among the full sample, 28% of agencies indicated shortages of morphine; 20% reported shortages of hydromorphone. Nearly half (43%) of hospice representatives reported that missing opioid medications occurred within the last 90 days. 52% of representatives reported employees are not allowed to dispose of medications after a home death; and, among home deaths, unused opioids were left in the home 32% of the time. This suggests opioid medications are frequently left in U.S. households after a hospice home death.
Hospices face numerous challenges during the national opioid crisis. Interventions are needed to ensure access to needed treatments, mitigation of diversion, and safe medication disposal.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.