Hospitals Facing Dire Shortage of Needed Medications
We are all aware of the critical shortage of medical equipment such as N95 masks needed to protect our health care workers, and ventilators to help ill patients breathe. But hospitals are now running low on essential drugs as well.
Medications needed to support ailing respiratory systems, antiviral medications and sedatives are all in short supply. Premier, a company that works with many hospitals for their medication purchasing, has compiled a list of 15 critical drugs for treating COVID-19 that are either facing a shortage or already in short supply. They have reported that 70% of acute care responders reported at least one shortage of one of these COVID-19 drugs. Among non-acute responders, such as pharmacies, long term care facilities, and home care facilities, 48% reported shortages.
These drugs are used for a variety of purposes, including pain management, fever reduction, resuscitation of people in cardiac arrest, and control of secondary lung infections. In addition, some of the drugs in short supply are those used to sedate patients to help them deal with needed breathing tubes. So even if hospitals are able to get the ventilators that are so critically needed, the shortage of drugs will make it more difficult to actually place patients on the devices.
According to an article in the New York Times, to compensate for the shortage of first line medications normally used for patients on ventilators, doctors are using a combination of alternative drugs. The risk of these is that they are longer lasting and make it more difficult for patients to come out of sedation.
Increasing the availability of these needed drugs is not a simple task. Ramping up domestic production could take two to three months. And increased production is dependent on the Drug Enforcement Agency lifting production allocation quotas on controlled substances, as requested by the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and 3 other medical groups.
Coordination is needed amongst the drug manufacturers, raw material suppliers and the US government in order to find a timely and much needed answer to getting hospitals and medical facilities sufficient medications to fill the rapidly growing need.
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