Hospitals are confronting a new opioid crisis: an alarming shortage of pain meds

Production of injectable opioids has slowed drastically due to manufacturing problems, causing drug shortages at hospitals and other medical providers.

Production of injectable opioids has slowed drastically due to manufacturing problems, causing drug shortages at hospitals and other medical providers. These products, which are distinct from the prescription medications driving the nation's opioid addiction crisis, are used to treat patients undergoing major surgeries or those who are experiencing intense pain related to trauma or cancer. Many medical providers nationwide are launching efforts to conserve injectable opioids and institute safeguards to prevent dosing errors that can result from rapid changes in medication regimens. For example, the incident command system recently kicked in at Brigham and Women's Hospital, triggering daily meetings between doctors, pharmacists, and nurses to discuss the volume of opioids and how it might be affected by the day's demands of surgery, emergency care, and other treatments. The hospital has not yet had to limit services or consider rationing medicines, but it is emphasizing the use of alternative pain medications and strategies to help conserve injectable opioids over the next year. In order to increase the supply of injectable opioids, DEA must lift quotas on smaller manufacturers to allow them to make more. The problem is heightened by limited competition and the lack of redundant manufacturing capacity. Some medical organizations have called for regulatory or legislative solutions to help provide a more reliable supply of medicines.

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