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COVID-19 Demand for Emergency Syringes, Routinely in Shortage, Rises

Demand for emergency syringes is surging, according to Premier data, as healthcare providers increasingly reach for medications that can rapidly reverse the side effects of COVID-19. In the New York hotspot, demand has more than doubled for certain syringes.


The emergency syringes that treat some of the common side effects of COVID-19 — including cardiac damage — have traditionally been in shortage. Despite the increased demand during the outbreak, however, Premier members have been able to reliably access them through Premier’s drug shortage program, ProvideGx™.

In 2019, one of the partnerships Premier initiated to reliably bring shortage drugs back to market was with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals. This partnership offers providers reliable access and has helped solve the shortage of pre-filled, emergency syringes of seven front-line drugs routinely used in emergency department crash carts: calcium chloride, epinephrine, sodium bicarbonate, atropine sulfate, dextrose and lidocaine.

Within weeks of New York City seeing its first confirmed COVID-19 case, first responders began logging an uptick in cardiac arrest calls.

The Fire Department of New York registered an average of 195 cardiac arrest calls daily from March 20 through April 5 – up 200 percent over the same time period last year. Emergency syringes contain drugs to be administered quickly in response to cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart abruptly loses function.

Pre-filled syringes became the go-to standard for emergency care because they are already measured in the exact adult dose and ready to use for immediate injection, speeding response times and minimizing the potential for dosing errors.

But, across the country, emergency syringes used to manage trauma and treat heart damage have traditionally been in short supply. Without them, first responders are forced to backpedal and jerry rig alternatives, either administering the needed drug using vials or turning to a substitute product, which require additional calculation and increase the potential for a medication error. Either response takes extra time that patients in a medical emergency don’t have.

These drugs are in shortage because the market that produces them is unhealthy. Many emergency syringes are low-margin, generic drugs made by just a handful of companies, creating a fragile supply that isn’t strong enough to handle disruptions or surges in demand. Persuading new entrants to get into this market and increase the supply has historically been difficult because there just isn’t enough financial incentive attached for them to do so.

Over the past year, Premier has extended its efforts to reliably source generic drugs in shortage with the ProvideGx program.

ProvideGx aggregates the demand of thousands of hospitals across the country, and approaches manufacturers with a guaranteed buyer-base if they agree to enter a new market or increase their production of shortage products. This creates a predictable sales channel for the manufacturer, thereby cutting down the financial risks. In exchange, hospitals get a guaranteed supply, at a guaranteed price point. And, most importantly, patients across the country can access needed medications in a timely manner.

By finding creative financing and group purchasing options, ProvideGx is delivering a real remedy to the emergency syringe shortage problem, as well as other issues exacerbated by drug shortages – something that many have promised, but none were able to deliver.

When lives are on the line, emergency responders need immediate access to the right drug, at the right time, in the right dosage.

That means getting to the root causes of drug shortages and remediating them with a systematic and sustainable approach.

ProvideGx has put us on that sustainable path. And clinicians, first responders and COVID-19 patients are benefiting.

Unwavering Support and Partnership

During COVID-19, Premier continues to act as a trusted connection point for healthcare providers, suppliers and the government. We are working 24/7 to address challenges as they occur and help our alliance of more than 4,000 hospitals and health systems and 175,000 non-acute providers access the supplies they need to serve their communities. We are also partnering with the Administration and private sector to create short-and long-term solutions.

Access our COVID-19 resources and tools.

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