One of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. healthcare system is drug shortages. In the last several years, shortages of critical drugs — morphine, lidocaine, epinephrine, immune globulin, vincristine and even normal saline for injection — have caused significant problems for patients, physicians and pharmacists.
When Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico in September 2017, many Americans may have been left wondering what would become of their holiday travel plans. Clinicians across the U.S., on the other hand, were left wondering how they would provide basic medical care to millions of sick patients in the middle of an influenza epidemic. Incredibly, 10% of all drugs consumed by Americans are manufactured on Puerto Rico, including most small volume saline intravenous infusion bags. Unfortunately, Maria’s disruption of the pharmaceutical supply network caused an already-low supply of intravenous bags to become even scarcer through late 2017 and into mid-2018. The actions required prompt efforts to address the critical nature of this event, and in some cases forced health systems to go to extreme measures to meet the needs of the patients being served.