November 23, 2017 |
Nationwide IV Fluid Shortage Threatens Care
April 23, 2014  | 

Chicago, Il - Since mid-January, the nurses at the Coastal Cancer Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have been spending several hours each week tracking down suppliers who can provide the intravenous (IV) solutions necessary for patients scheduled to receive chemotherapy. If they are unsuccessful, Vijay Paudel, MD, an oncologist at the facility, is faced with the onerous decision of which patients will get their treatments and who will have to wait.

“The bottom line is that patients end up not getting treatment,” Paudel said. “We are fortunate it hasn’t happened much, but once is too much.”

Normally, securing the week’s IV fluids takes the cancer center’s nurses about half an hour, but a nationwide shortage that began in January has made the task a day-to-day or week-to-week challenge for oncology practices, hospitals, and other health care facilities across the country. The 2 companies that supply the bulk of the nation’s IV fluids attribute the shortage to increased demand caused by a difficult influenza season. But many in the health care industry question whether economic and other factors are the real drivers of the shortage.

The US Food and Drug Administration has averted some new drug shortages in recent years, but the total number remains high as a result of unresolved shortages.

Stretching Supplies
Panicked calls from oncology practices having difficulties securing saline prompted Community Oncology Alliance, an advocacy organization, to conduct an online survey of its membership in February, according to Ted Okon, MBA, executive director of the alliance. Of the 66 respondents, most reported having to take steps to avert shortages, and nearly half reported having to adjust the way fluids are used. Continue>

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