TRENTON, N.J. – A drug for dangerously high blood pressure, normally priced at $25.90 per dose, offered to hospitals for $1,200. Fifteen deaths in 15 months blamed on shortages of life-saving medications.

A growing crisis in the availability of drugs for chemotherapy, infections and other serious ailments is endangering patients and forcing hospitals to buy from secondary suppliers at huge markups because they can’t get the medications any other way.

An Associated Press review of industry reports and interviews with nearly two dozen experts found the shortages — mainly of injected generic drugs that ordinarily are cheap — have delayed surgeries and cancer treatments, left patients in unnecessary pain and caused hospitals to give less effective treatments.

Just over half of the 549 U.S. hospitals responding to a survey this summer by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a patient safety group, said they had purchased one or more prescription drugs from so-called “gray market vendors” — companies other than their normal wholesalers.

Hospital pharmacists “are really looking at this as a crisis. They are scrambling to find drugs,” said Joseph Hill of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

The FDA says the primary cause of the shortages is production shutdowns because of manufacturing problems, such as contamination and metal particles that get into medicine.

In addition, many companies have stopped making generic injected drugs because the profit margins are slim. Producing them is far more expensive than stamping out pills. Making things worse, companies don’t have to notify customers or the FDA that they’ve stopped making a medicine. That means neither the FDA nor competitors can fill the gap in time.

At a hearing Friday before the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, hospital officials and other experts testified that the worsening shortages are preventing them from giving many patients the best care and are driving up costs.

“Considering the nation’s budget crisis and our skyrocketing health care bill, these markups are nothing more than profiteering at the expense of patients and providers who are struggling to afford vital medicines,” said Mike Alkire, chief operating officer of Premier Healthcare Alliance, a group that helps health care providers improve their patient care and finances.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration is holding a meeting with medical and consumer groups, researchers and industry reps to discuss the shortages and strategies to fight them.

Only a half-dozen companies make the vast majority of injected generic drugs. Even if other companies wanted to begin making a drug in short supply, they’re discouraged by the lengthy, expensive process of setting up new manufacturing lines and getting FDA approval.

Hospitals that buy scarce medicines from the “gray market” are taking a gamble.

The drugs may be stolen and hospitals can’t always tell whether a medicine was properly refrigerated or whether it’s past the expiration date, said Michael R. Cohen, a pharmacist and president of the institute.