ABC News 8 - MedStar Response to Potential Epinephrine Shortage  


Critical shortage of life-saving drug



Posted on June 7, 2010 at 11:00 PM

FORT WORTH — Epinephrine, an extremely valuable drug in life-and-death emergency situations, is in short supply.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put Epinephrine on its list of drug shortages.

Hospitals, fire departments, emergency providers and doctors always have Epinephrine on hand. "It is the first line for cardiac arrest victims whose heart has stopped," said Matt Zavadsky, MedStar's director of operations. "It's also the first line drug for patients with asthma attacks, emphysema attacks and allergic reactions."

MedStar uses the drug at least six times a day. The emergency services provider heard about the shortage from its supplier.

"The shortage is almost the perfect storm for us," said Zavadsky. "This time of year is very busy with difficulty breathing cases and even cardiac arrest cases because of the sudden heat."

Hospira is currently the only manufacturer of the drug. It is struggling to meet demand after another company stopped making it late last year. Other EMS providers and agencies have called MedStar for help.

"We have enough for ourselves, but we can't pass what we have, or we will be in the same condition," said MedStar logistics manager David Lamb.

If MedStar runs out, it will start rolling out a back-up plan.

"It's a matter of mixing a vial that's a higher concentration with a bag of saline," Lamb explained.

But challenges remain. The shelf life of the bag is 30 days; the boxed drug lasts two years.

"The years that we have been using the syringes of Epinephrine, we are all used to that; using it as an I-V solution is going to be a little different, and require a bit of training and additional monitoring," Zavadsky said.

According to the FDA, Hospira is working to increase production, hoping to mail shipments at the end of this month.

News 8 called Hospira for comment, but we did not receive a response.