Hope on the horizon for Puerto Rico drug shortages
| February 01, 2018
In the wake of the two hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico's way of life, the United States has experienced shortages of certain drugs. The magnitude of this impact has been felt by many hospitals across the United States that depend on a number of Baxter products, which are made in Puerto Rico.
Baxter is recognized as a leading producer of IV saline fluids, and Hurricanes Irma and Maria knocked out the infrastructure and the company's ability to manufacture these products. It is reported that about 20 percent of all drugs that are prescribed in the U.S. are made in Puerto Rico with about 80 firms making medical products.
The current situation is unlike any that has been dealt with before because of the simultaneous effects to the production of these products. But help is on the way.
"Based on the information we’re receiving from the companies, we expect that the shortage of IV saline fluids will improve in early 2018, with continuing improvements in the weeks ahead," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in statement.
The FDA has been working tirelessly to help reduce the risk of shortages for drugs that are considered to be critically vital and to reduce the impact on pre-existing shortages that can potentially place U.S. healthcare at risk.
According to pharmacists that were interviewed at a half-dozen hospitals in the U.S., the shortages of IV bag fluids have led to a ripple effect that has led to many administrators racing to stock up on supplies in order to keep their facilities functional. When a drug shortage is quickly identified, it is generally a matter of time before hoarding begins in an attempt to stock a supply of the drug or alternatives to the drug.
In an effort to address this critical issue, the FDA has been working to mitigate the issue and prevent it from becoming much worse. According to Gottlieb, the FDA has been working to help expedite review processes and work to approve other formulations of products that can serve as alternatives for those products that are considered to be critically low.
Additionally, there have been ongoing efforts to assist the manufacturers in Puerto Rico with acquiring fuel and supplies in order to be able to transport the critical products off the island to those healthcare facilities that are in need. In fact, Baxter announced today that all their facilities on the island "are now back on the electrical grid and have been ramping up production to pre-hurricane levels."
"I am incredibly proud of and grateful to our employees around the world, who are inspired by our mission to save and sustain lives and have contributed in remarkable ways to our recovery efforts in Puerto Rico," Baxter CEO José (Joe) E. Almeida said. "I also want to thank our customers for their extraordinary patience and support as we work together through these unprecedented supply challenges, and to acknowledge the FDA's valued assistance and partnership, which has been vital to the island's continued recovery."
Within various facilities, hospitals and other healthcare institutions can help address this issue by taking into consideration the recommendations for managing critically-low IV fluids that have been provided by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
With observed improvements with the crisis, there is optimism that supplies will continue to increase in the coming weeks.
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