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Opiate shortage could soon affect hospitals

Posted at 5:52 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 04:23:56-05

Opiate addiction is already a national crisis, but the country could soon face a different kind of problem related to opiates; a shortage of the medications that hospitals use to treat pain patients.

RELATED: More coverage of the opioid crisis

“We are certainly being prepared and being very proactive in anticipation of a shortage," said Dr. David Soria, chief of emergency medicine at Wellington Regional Medical Center.

The FDA lists injections of morphine, fentanyl and hydromorphone, known as Dilaudid, as currently being in short supply. 

“Right now, all we know is that there are manufacturing delays," Dr. Soria said. "We don’t know if that’s going to be for days, weeks, months, or permanently.”

The website for American Society of Health-System Pharmacists lists drug shortages and the reasoning manufacturers have given for them. For fentanyl, manufacturers say increased demand and manufacturing delays are to blame. Similar delays are also affecting supply for morphine and Demerol. However, no reasons are listed for the shortage of methadone and the only explanation for limited Dilaudid supply is Purdue discontinued it in May for marketing reasons.

Wellington Regional Medical Center has directed staff to let patients know of the potential shortage.

“'Hey, there is an up and coming national shortage that may impact the way we are able to care for our patients nationwide, not just here at Wellington,'” Dr. Soria said.

They're also encouraging staff members to think about potential alternative treatments, of which Dr. Soria said there are plenty available.

“Different types of therapy to medication alternatives like gabapentin, like non-opiate analgesics and some of the simple ones like ibuprofens, but there’s so many of them," he said.

That will help the hospital ensure opiates are available patients with traumatic injuries or other major issues.

“Our patients that truly, truly need it, we will always be able to accommodate those appropriately and make sure that they’re not in pain," Dr. Soria said.