Essential drug supplies for virus patients are running low

As U.S. hospitals confront a surge in coronavirus cases, they are also beginning to report shortages of critical medications—especially those needed to ease the disease's assault on patients’ respiratory systems.

As U.S. hospitals confront a surge in coronavirus cases, they are also beginning to report shortages of critical medications—especially those needed to ease the disease's assault on patients’ respiratory systems. Drugs used to keep patients’ airways open, antibiotics, antivirals, and sedatives are among the most commonly reported areas of shortage. Demand for these drugs significantly increased in March as the pandemic took hold in the United States. Orders for antibiotics like azithromycin and antiviral medicines like ribavirin nearly tripled. Medicines used for sedation and pain management, including fentanyl, midazolam, and propofol, increased by 100%, 70%, and 60% respectively. Demand for the asthma inhaler medication albuterol has also risen significantly due to its importance in easing the breathing of patients with severe infection. At the same time, the rate at which these prescriptions are filled and shipped to hospitals has declined by one-half to more than three-fourths in the last month, according to data collected by Premier Inc. In a recent survey of 377 hospitals and 100 long-term care, home infusion, and community pharmacies, Premier found that drug shortages were pervasive in acute care settings, where 70% of respondents reported at least one shortage for coronavirus drugs. Among long-term care facilities, home care settings, and community pharmacies, 48% reported shortages.