Nationwide drug shortage threatens patients, slows care

Everything from common blood thinner to critical cancer drugs in short supply

Thomas Perumean
November 04, 2019 - 6:24 am

Getty Images - Darwin Brandis

Everyday drugs like blood thinner Heparin, allergic reaction drug Epinephrine, and Acyclovir–IV, an antiviral used to treat infections are routinely in short supply.  

"This has been a recurring challenge," says Dr. Nirav Patel with LCMC/University Medical Center.  "I think it's something that everyone needs to be very cautious about because are life saving drugs and are absolutely necessary for us to provide high quality safe care for our patients."

A lot of these drugs are manufactured outside the U.S. and according to Patel, drugs that are substituted for them are in such demand, they're also running short. 

The FDA reports heart surgeries across 56-percent of community hospitals have been delayed due to unavailability.  Fortunately for New Orleans area hospitals "We are not experiencing delays, but I'm sure those delays could occur in some situations," Patel says.  

Patel says the shortage is because these drug standards are no long big money makers so there's no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to crank them out.  Adding to the problem, many of these drugs are manufactured overseas as profit margins on the drugs are generating less and less revenue.  

Some hospitals have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to getting a supply of these drugs.  "There's a conglomoration of non-profit health systems that have developed their own drug company to produce drugs in the United States," Dr. Patel says.  "That has been one action step that a lot of hospitals and health systems have taken to try and mitigate this drug shortage."

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