National drug shortage impacts MEDIC - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

National drug shortage impacts MEDIC

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Every ambulance in Mecklenburg is stocked with what Medic needs right now.

However, the agency is running a short supply on certain drugs like painkillers and seizure medicines.

"This is a national issue that everyone is struggling with right now," said Dr. Doug Swanson, Medical Director for EMS in Mecklenburg. Swanson says he's never seen anything like this, in terms of a drug shortage. It's been a problem the past year.

The current shortage list is 25 to 30 drugs long. Most of the drugs are needed in the hospital setting. So far, Medic has been able to make due.

Swanson says they've considered drug substitutions and lobbied the state medical board for flexibility.

However, he says they're cutting it close when it comes to certain drugs. "Where we like to have a couple weeks or a months supply, we have a week or two," he said.

Very common drugs like lidocaine and morphine made the list.

Currently, Medic's main concern is medazolam, which is used for seizures. Every ambulance has some, but there's no more left in the stock room.

According to Congressional leaders, 230 drugs made the shortage list in 2011. In 2010, it was 178. Compare that to 2005, when the shortage list had 61 drugs on it.

Mostly, it's a manufacturing issue.

Now Congress is stepping in with the Drug Shortage Prevention Act.

It would force the FDA and drug companies to identify drugs in danger and expedite a review of companies wanting to make those drugs. It would also allow the FDA flexibility to address production issues.

The Act would also require the FDA and drug companies to develop a notification plan for doctors and patients so they can discuss other options before a critical time.

The FDA would also be able to raise drug quotas when necessary.

Dr. Swanson said we may not be at the worst point yet. "It's hard to say. I certainly hope so," he said.

WBTV also reached out to Presbyterian Hospital and Carolinas Medical Center. They said they've had to make some drug substitutions or shift supply. Both hospitals said the patient population has suffered no negative impact. 

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