Drug shortages affecting Sedgwick County EMS

A national shortage of some medications is affecting Sedgwick County EMS, but the situation is not a crisis, its director told commissioners Tuesday.

Director Scott Hadley shared a list of 15 drugs on back order and in short supply due to manufacturing problems, recalls, supply and demand, and a shortage of raw materials.

“We’ve taken several steps to counteract this,” he told commissioners.

Estimated availability dates for drugs on back order vary, with some expected later this month and in March and some unknown.

EMS is using substitute medications, working with other vendors and turning to area pharmacies to compound drugs.

Compounding – when a drug is mixed by a pharmacist instead of made at a plant – is more expensive, and the shelf life of such drugs is shorter, about 30 to 90 days, Hadley said. In addition, not all medications can be compounded.

The supply of drugs changes rapidly, Hadley said. The list of drugs in low supply presented Tuesday will be different by the end of the week, he said.

“We’re on top of this,” Hadley said. “Our folks monitor this daily and weekly.”

For example, dextrose – a medication used for patients who are diabetic – is expected to be available sometime this month, and the manufacturer EMS uses expects to clear back orders of dextrose during the first quarter. Hadley told commissioners EMS has 688 syringes in stock and uses about 85 syringes a month.

Nitroglycerin in injection form is on indefinite back order, Hadley’s list said. Sedgwick County EMS doesn’t use nitroglycerin as an injection, but Hadley said the back order might make the tablets EMS uses more difficult to order. That was a problem last year, he said.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn asked Hadley whether he expected any rationing of medications. Hadley told commissioners alternative work-arounds were available and patient care was not being affected at this time.