ASHP Pushes to Increase Supply of Drugs Critical for Patient Ventilation

Even if the United States has an ample supply of ventilators to treat COVID-19 infection patients with respiratory distress, the lack of necessary medications to use the machines could result in many deaths. That’s why the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists is strongly pushing for better supply of opioids, sedatives and paralytics during the pandemic. Here are more details.

BETHESDA, MD – With growing shortages of critical medications, including opioids, sedatives and paralytics that allow the use of ventilators, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists is strongly urging government officials to take action to remedy the problem.

Specifically, the ASHP is asking the Trump Administration to release drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile to states hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and to increase the quota for new production of opioids.

“Even if hospitals had all of the ventilators needed to keep patients alive, this critical shortage of medications could make it impossible to maintain COVID-19 patients on those ventilators, and therefore result in harm,” said CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, PharmD, ScD. (Hon.) “It is imperative that the manufacturing of these medications be increased immediately and available supply is allocated based on current projections of critical care patient volume, rather than based on historical allocations, which do not reflect current need.”

The organization sent a letter to Vice President Michael Pence, warning that demand is outpacing supply and exhausting current allocations.

“Most recently, we, along with the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and others, sent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a letter requesting that they immediately increase allocation of annual production quota for supportive opioids to manufacturers and 503B outsourcing facilities,” the letter states. “We have also been working closely with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to mitigate potential and ongoing shortages (fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone have been on FDA’s shortage list for months) and to request additional regulatory flexibilities for hospitals and 503B outsourcing facilities to compound essential medications, which have not yet been granted. Additionally, we are aware that the Department of Health & Human Services released a request for information regarding manufacturing capacity for critical drugs, but we were dismayed to see that the medications necessary for ventilating patients were designated Tier 2. Failure to treat these drugs as anything other than absolutely essential will render ventilators worthless and exact a heavy patient toll.”

Some of the medications, including fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone, have been on the FDA’s shortage list for months. ASHP has also worked closely with the FDA to mitigate potential and ongoing shortages for hospitals and 503B outsourcing facilities to compound essential medications.

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