Key Drugs Join PPEs on List of Front-Line Shortages

Among the drugs are several that are key for ventilating patients and keeping airways open.

Premier’s data for albuterol, for example — which is also listed as “currently in shortage” on the US Food and Drug Administration’s website — show that orders increased nationally by 53% in March and now only 80% of orders are able to be filled. In New York, albuterol orders increased this month by 1870%, according to Premier’s data.

Similarly, orders for fentanyl doubled nationally in March and were up 533% in New York for the month. Only 61% of orders are now being filled, Premier reports.


The Premier data come from a survey that was fielded from March 20-25 and included responses from 377 acute care and 102 nonacute long-term care, home infusion, and retail pharmacy facilities.

Anesthetic Fill Rate Drops from 95% to 63%

Meanwhile, Vizient’s Kistner said their data show that the combined fill rate for six ventilator-associated anesthetics together is now 63% (down from 95%). Those drugs include dexmedetomidine, etomidate, ketamine, lorazepam, midazolam, and propofol.

The analgesics (hydromorphone, fentanyl, and morphine) dropped to a 73% fill rate, he noted.

“In my career and in the career of all the pharmacists I talk with — the chief pharmacy officers for the largest healthcare institutions in the world — they’ve never seen demand like this,” he said.

Kistner notes that while manufacturers have stepped up production to make ventilators and personal protective equipment, and distilleries are making hand sanitizer, “Not just anyone can make a drug.”

“For someone to make propofol or hydromorphone or fentanyl, it usually takes about 5 weeks,” he said.

And unlike the process for oral tablet drugs, “the sterility period for generic injectables is an additional 21 days at least.”

What’s Being Done

Kistner said Vizient is advocating for drug manufacturers to ramp up supply as well as pushing for the FDA to speed up additional supply approvals with manufacturers.

They are also working with the Drug Enforcement Administration to ease limits on narcotics put in place for the opioid crisis.

Michael Ganio, PharmD, senior director of pharmacy and quality for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), told Medscape Medical News that quality issues are often behind drug shortages.

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