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Archive August 2020 XXI, No. 8

The True Price of Prefilled Syringes

Focusing too heavily on the upfront costs of premixed medications can come back to hurt you in surprising ways.

Jared Bilski


VALUE ADDED There are benefits to investing in prefilled syringes when you factor in indirect savings and increased patient safety.

Running a lean and mean surgical facility is more important than ever during COVID-19, so why should you buy premixed and prelabeled syringes from a compounding pharmacy when they're more expensive than the medications you draw-up and label in-house? Because putting too much of an emphasis on the going rates of your commonly used medications could cost you more down the road. Before writing off prefilled syringes, consider what you're actually getting for the price. You might find out it makes perfect sense (and cents) to go the readymade route.

Beyond convenience

The use of prefilled syringes isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. For some drugs — such as medications that cost less than $10 per dose in standard vials and twice that amount in prefilled syringes — you might be willing to pay extra for the convenience of not having to dilute and label the medications before administering them. That calculus changes for medications that normally cost $200. Paying twice that amount to receive the agents in prefilled syringes might not be worth it.

"My advice for purchasing prefilled syringes is advice that applies to anything — you can't take a blanket approach," says Merlin Wehling, MD, a board-certified anesthesiologist and the director of anesthesia at Kearney (Neb.) Regional Medical Center. "You need to make a data-driven case for spending more."

He suggests gathering the exact dollar amounts you spend on commonly used drugs to determine the direct costs of preparing and administering medications while also considering a variety of factors that could lead to soft savings:

  • Time. You shouldn't opt for prefilled syringes simply because they're convenient and your staff doesn't feel like diluting and labeling medications. But in many cases that convenience translates directly into significant savings. The time spent setting up, diluting, drawing and labeling medications is money — especially for busy outpatient centers where shaving precious minutes off turnover times can lead to additional cases.
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