Last week there was a notice in my mailbox from the pharmacy telling me that an antibiotic intensivists use frequently, vancomycin, was in extremely short supply. We still have some, but we were instructed to watch carefully how we use it until the shortage abated. How long would that be? It shouldn’t be too long — just a couple of weeks. Actually this sort of thing happens all the time. Brief (usually), unanticipated shortages of drugs are common.
The causes of the shortages are typically some problem at the facilities that manufacture them, and often there are only a few of these. Sometimes the cause is a sudden huge spike in demand, such as we saw for the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (Cipro) a few years ago during the anthrax scare and are now seeing with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) with the current influenza outbreak, but usually the cause is just some glitch in the manufacture of the drugs. Sometimes only a single facility is making a drug. This is particularly the case if the drug is a cheap generic, one for which the manufacturer doesn’t stand to make much money. Further, there generally are no stockpiles in case of emergencies like this.
If you are interested in learning which drugs are currently in short supply (and why), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists keeps an ongoing list here
10/19/2011 • When most people go into the hospital it does not occur to them that, here in America, an acute scarcity of a standard medication will affect their health. But they would be wrong. Sudden, random, ...more
12/27/2009 • The issue of food allergies is a complex one, probably because the food we eat is complex stuff. Many parents observe that particular foods don't agree with their child. Pain, bloating, and diarrhea are all ...more
11/05/2010 • Whooping cough (pertussis) has been in the news for the past several months. For example, there's been a sizable epidemic in California over the summer that has caused several deaths in infants. I've cared for ...more
Leave a Reply
11/11/2013 • Asthma is a common problem in children -- nearly 10% now have it -- and the number is increasing. Researchers are not sure of the reasons for this steady increase (more here), but decreased air quality, lower ...more
08/03/2013 • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is when stomach contents slosh backwards from the stomach up into the esophagus, the swallowing tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach. The spot where the esophagus enters the stomach ...more
07/22/2013 • The intestines, particularly the large intestine, are teeming with bacteria. They are piled on each other as dense as the above photomicrograph shows. The huge majority of them are what we call friendly bacteria: they ...more
07/17/2013 • (Guest Post: What follows is a fascinating and enlightening essay and book review by Maggie Mahar, who blogs on healthcare policy issues at her excellent blog Healthbeat, posted here with her permission.) Miriam Zoll’s Cracked Open: Liberty, ...more