Medics scrambling to fill drug shortages

Published: .
Updated: .

When the ambulance comes, you expect it to have all the supplies you'll need. But around the nation, a critical shortage of some life-saving drugs to stabilize the patient on the way to the hospital has local ambulance services scrambling.

"This is epinephrine. We are having issues getting the 1,000-10,000 dose," says Greenwood Fire Department Division Chief Darin Hoggatt.

The shortage of that drug shortage is evident in the Greenwood medic kit carried aboard one fire truck. Hoggatt showed Eyewitness News part of a row of loops that usually hold the vials of the pre-mixed drug - they're partly empty.

Medics in Indianapolis, Wayne Township, Greenwood, Fishers and more are all making do, using lower or higher doses of the drug and diluting it with saline to get the right dose. They often must mix that in the field while working on patients.

"It's not what we're used to," said Hoggatt.

Another drug running short is D-50, used to raise blood sugar. Hoggatt showed how the pre-measured dose is coupled to an IV and administered to the patient.

But if it has to be mixed, it takes extra time.

At Wayne Township, there is no shortage of D-50 right now, but other drugs are in short supply. Sodium bicarbonate and a heart drug are out of stock right now.

But they work with Wishard Hospital's pharmacy to restock with substitute drugs, according to Wayne Township Emergency Management Agency's Shane Hardwick. They also rely on help in the field.

"If I'm doing something with an airway or an IV, I've got my partner and there are firemen who are usually there, we can toss it to them. This is what we need," Hardwick said.

The agencies we talk to say patient care is not suffering. They are adapting to meet shortfalls.

"They're still going to get the same care. We're just going to have to change the game plan a little bit," said Hardwick.

One downside to finding substitutes is they can be more expensive than the original drug. The reasons for the shortage are unclear. Manufacturers blame regulators and others blame the drug makers, claiming they don't want to make drugs that are relatively inexpensive.