IV Bag Shortage Making Flu Season Worse

Supplies of intravenous (IV) saline and nutrient solutions were already tight before hurricanes hit Puerto Rico in September of last year and cut power to manufacturing plants. Now, as Puerto Rico continues its recovery efforts, the U.S. supply of IV bags used to deliver sterile solutions is dropping to crisis levels.

An aggressive flu season has further hampered hospitals. “If we can’t support patients coming [into] emergency rooms who have the flu, more people are going to die,” predicts Deborah Pasko, PharmD, MHA, director of medication safety and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. “I see it as a crisis.”

Hospital officials, pharmacists, and other staff have been devising alternatives and workarounds: substituting pills for IV-administered drugs when possible and changing dosing schedules or injecting drugs directly into a vein.

They’ve also been changing some procedures, such as discontinuing IV bags as soon as possible and not starting patients on IV drips during surgery until it’s certain they are needed.

The FDA said it believes shortages will start to ease by spring 2018, but stressed “the production situation in Puerto Rico remains fragile.” Puerto Rico’s power grid is being slowly restored and the last of three Baxter International factories there that make saline bags and nutrient solutions was reconnected in December 2017.

Source: AP News, January 9, 2018.