There is a national shortage of certain opioids that hospitals stock for perioperative and trauma pain relief, according to a series of announcements from the FDA. Injectable formulations of morphine, hydromorphone and fentanyl, including prefilled syringes, as well as small ampulesand vials for intravenous delivery are affected.
While some pharmaceutical companies have had to cut production as far back as last year, hospitals across the country are feeling the shortages piecemeal, depending on their personal stockpiles and rates of usage.
Medical professionals in many health systems are being advised to seek alternatives when they can, including prescribing oral versions for patients who are able to swallow, using local anesthetics like nerve blocks, or ordering substitutes such as acetaminophen and muscle relaxants.
Although shortages of opioids are not an uncommon occurrence—the last large opioid shortage was in 2010—professional medical societies are worried about the current response to this shortage, which some, like the American Hospital Association and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, claim is being aggravated by production limits imposed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.