Drug Shortages Hit Emergency Departments Hard With "Trauma Season" Well Underway

July 18, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Summer is "trauma season" according to a July 1, 2018, New York Times article, and hospitals and emergency departments (EDs) nationwide are struggling with shortages of vital painkillers such as morphine and hydromorphone, as well as diltiazem, a heart drug used for trauma-hemorrhagic shock. As temperatures rise, EDs see an increase of injuries due to incidents such as bicycle accidents, car crashes, and gunshots, according to the article. Plagued by drug shortages, EDs have been seeking alternatives to the medicines they would typically use. One survey published in May 2018 by the American College of Emergency Physicians found 9 of 10 emergency physicians said their department did not have access to critical medicines, and 4 of 10 said patients had been negatively affected by these shortages, according to the article. The drug company Pfizer has warned that manufacturing problems will continue to keep supplies low until 2019. Most of the drugs in short supply are sterile injectable drugs, which are commonly used in healthcare and are priced cheaply, despite being difficult to make.

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