We talked a few weeks ago on the show about drug shortages causing problems and paramedics having to give expired medications in some cases. Well, there are some other things going on with these medication shortages. Medication errors are rising due to unfamiliarity with the new meds being swapped out for the shortage medications.

EMS Medication Shortages

Here in the state of Maryland, we have drug shortages of things like morphine and we add fentanyl to our drug box. Because of that we have an unfamiliar drug in our med boxes. This should be raising a red flag and make you take some time to review the drug doses, medication concentrations and what a typical dose will be for when you draw it up in a syringe.

If you have to give it rapidly, you could easily make a dosing error, even with a  familiar medication. Throw in an unfamiliar med and you are in dangerous territory for both the patient and your career. This article comes out of Texas. They’re looking at problems they’re having that very issue. They’re very concerned about swapping out drugs.

Big Pharma Production Slowdowns

The pharmaceutical companies are continuing to have these drug shortages and it is not just affecting Emergency Medical Services folks. There are horrible shortages in oncology medications and cancer treatment centers are having to deal with not having chemotherapy drugs they need to treat their patients. The shortages are affecting the entire healthcare system.

The pharmaceutical companies are saying it’s not their fault. They blame the problem on production slowdowns and things like that. They claim it has a lot to do with the economy. I’m sure that’s true to some extent. The big pharma companies may just be slowing production on less profitable generic medications in favor of much more profitable name brand medications still under drug patents. It comes down to money and their businesses.

I get it, but ultimately, when we don’t have the medications we need to treat pain and we take a patient all the way to the hospital in pain needlessly that’s a problem. We need to find better ways to make sure we have the meds we need. It is not like we’re in a third world country here, folks. We should be able to stock our ambulances with the meds we need.

Federal Intervention in Drug Shortages

The federal government is looking at ways to stop this. One option is requiring pharmaceutical companies to provide months of advance notice before they discontinue making a medication or before they change production practices with a medication so that people in the healthcare arena can make appropriate preparations to plan for drug shortages. That’s great because if you have enough lead time you can do advanced education and make sure that your medics are up to date and understand how the new drug is going to be used.

What are you running into in your communities? I’d love to hear back from you. Let me know what kind of drug shortages you’re seeing. Get back to me by sending e-mail into podmedic@mac.com. I love to hear from you and it’s great to check out and hear what’s going on with the rest of the members of the MedicCast community.

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Follow up on the links for this news item and the additional resources in this episode’s shownotes — Amiodarone Reviewed and Episode 301.

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