Drug Shortage Possible In New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – There’s a potentially life-threatening shortage of drugs aboard local ambulances nationwide.

There is a national shortage of medical supplies used on ambulances and in emergency rooms that has apparently caught a number of departments in a bind. Health officials in New York caught it back in the spring, but say the shortage has not improved.

In a medical emergency, paramedics or emergency room staffers often use pre-filled dosages of vital drugs because every second counts. Now, some of those medications are in short supply because one of the two companies that make those drugs, pulled out.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier said, “The FDA said to one of the companies that they had to go through an entire process to get re-approved or approved to be able to continue to sell the medicine. And my understanding is the company said, “We’re not going to do it.” So now we have one manufacturer.”

While state public health officials have been hearing from emergency medical providers about these shortages, western New York is prepared.

“We have had quite a bit of advance notice that this shortage was going to be coming,” said Cliff Smith.

Cliff Smith, the business manager at Rural Metro told Mews 4 that the shortages are in three primary areas, and once they were put on notice, purchasing managers stockpiled their supplies.

Smith said, “So that even though they’re a little slower with coming in at this point because of the shortage, we haven’t run out of any of the medications. And at this point, our supplies are doing okay.”

Smith told News 4 that even if a major emergency comes along and depletes their stockpiles of the pre-filled medications, they do have options. For example, Dr. Billittier points out there are substitutions for Dextrose during a diabetic episodes.

“You can try to give them sugar by mouth. Another option is to give them another medicine that actually creates sugar release from their liver. That does not work as fast, and it is not as good as giving them sugar, but it could be helpful,” said Dr. Billittier.

“So if we do run short of these drugs, there are drugs in different concentrations that we can utilize. There are substitute drugs that we can utilize,” said Smith.

But Dr. Billittier pointed out that drug shortages happen all the time and gave the example of the H1N1 flu vaccines last year, which were in short supply for the entire flu season. County officials, both in the health department and emergency services, told News 4 that they have not received word from any departments in the eight county western New York region that are even close to running short of these medical dosages.

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