Shortages of Critical Medications Threaten Care for COVID-19, Critically Ill Patients
The ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists) has asked the Trump Administration to take steps, including releasing drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile to states hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing the quota for new production of opioids, to address critical shortages of medications needed to treat COVID-19 patients.
Opioids, sedatives, and paralytics are employed to ensure the successful use of ventilators. In a letter sent to Vice President Michael Pence, ASHP noted that the use of these medications has spiked as COVID-19 patient surge builds, and demand is outpacing supply and exhausting current allocations.
“Even if hospitals had all of the ventilators needed to keep patients alive, this critical shortage of medications could make it impossible to maintain COVID-19 patients on those ventilators, and therefore result in harm, “said ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP. “It is imperative that the manufacturing of these medications be increased immediately and available supply is allocated based on current projections of critical care patient volume, rather than based on historical allocations, which do not reflect current need.”
Some of these medications, including fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone, have been on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) shortage list for months. In some cases, hospitals are scrambling to replenish dwindling stock with only hours before they run out completely. This need will grow exponentially over the next few weeks as case numbers climb nationally.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, ASHP has reached out to federal agencies and Congress to protect our critical drug supply. Along with the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and others, ASHP sent the Drug Enforcement Administration a letter requesting that they immediately increase allocation of annual production quota for supportive opioids to manufacturers and 503B outsourcing facilities.
ASHP has also worked closely with the FDA to mitigate potential and ongoing shortages and requested additional regulatory flexibilities for hospitals and 503B outsourcing facilities to compound essential medications.
ASHP represents pharmacists who serve as patient care providers in acute and ambulatory settings. The organization’s nearly 55,000 members include pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. For more than 75 years, ASHP has been at the forefront of efforts to improve medication use and enhance patient safety. For more information about the wide array of ASHP activities and the many ways in which pharmacists advance healthcare, visit ASHP’s website, ashp.org, or its consumer website, SafeMedication.com.