Drug Shortages are Killing

The shortages of injectable drugs that I have been writing about since 2011 (e.g. here and here) are continuing and they are extending to ordinary nutrients needed by premature babies:

Because of nationwide shortages, Washington hospitals are rationing, hoarding, and bartering critical nutrients premature babies and other patients need to survive.

..At the time of this writing—some shortages come and go by the week—Atticus’s hospital is low on intravenous calcium, zinc, lipids (fat), protein, magnesium, multivitamins, and sodium phosphate; it’s completely out of copper, selenium, chromium, potassium phosphate, vitamin A, and potassium acetate. And so are many other hospitals and pharmacies in the country, leading to complications usually seen only in the developing world, if ever.

The article in the Washingtonian covers problems with GMP regulations and the FDA, as I did earlier. The article also makes the following point. Many of these products, especially the simpler ones, are available in Europe but it is illegal to import them to the United States.

Many doctors are pinning their immediate hopes on Congress’s forcing the FDA to form a global pipeline to import an emergency supply. “I have friends in other countries who could get me some, but that would be illegal,” one doctor says. In fact, pharmacists note that the phosphorous Europe uses is a better product than that in the US because it’s organic and doesn’t interact with calcium in the PN, meaning more phosphorous could be included in the IV bag.

When Miguel Sáenz de Pipaón, a neonatologist at a prominent hospital in Madrid, arrived in the US for a research visit, he was stunned by the nutrition shortages.

“It’s crazy,” he says. “That doesn’t happen in Europe.” He noted that the US relies on a 25-year-old lipid emulsion, which is in shortage, while European hospitals use a newer version that’s readily available. Rather than import the newer emulsion, the US has left many patients without any lipids at all.

Hat tip: Kurt Schuler.


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