As hospitals around the country fill with COVID-19 patients, medical personnel are sounding the alarm about shortages of drugs essential to those patients’ care.
“We have seen an increase in demand on pharmaceuticals that’s unprecedented,” says Daniel Kistner, who manages the pharmacy program for Vizient, a group purchasing organization that negotiates lower prices with drug manufacturers. “Never seen anything like this before across the whole country.”
This week, Vizient released datashowing dramatic spikes in demand for sedatives, pain medications, paralytics, and other drugs that are crucial for patients who are on ventilators. According to Vizient’s study, the rate at which those orders are filled is lagging far behind the demand.
“We’re not at a rate yet where there’s just no drug,” Kistner says, “but we are quickly approaching it.”
One complicating factor: “Injectable drugs take a long time to make,” Kistner says. “For instance, there’s a 21-day sterility period needed for all injectable drugs. So it’s not something simple that you can do overnight.”
If you ramp up production of ventilators but don’t also get a jump on producing the necessary drugs, Kistner says, you have a problem: “We’re gonna build all these cars, but if we don’t have the gas, they can’t go anywhere.”
This week, Vizient sent recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration, urging the agency to expand access to drugs heavily used with ventilator patients. Among Vizient’s recommendations: They asked the FDA to approve new lines of manufacturing or facilities to make these medications.
According to Kistner, the FDA has been receptive.