…At Norwegian American Hospital and other emergency departments around the country, doctors and nurses have been struggling for months without crucial drugs like morphine, which is used to ease the pain of injuries like broken bones, or diltiazem, a heart drug. Norwegian has been out of morphine since March, and the shortages are part of a nagging problem that has intensified this year as a rash of decades-old staples became scarce.
Hospitals small and large have been scrambling to come up with alternatives to these standbys, with doctors and nurses dismayed to find that some patients must suffer through pain, or risk unusual reactions to alternative drugs that aren’t the best option.
“So many substances are short, and we’re dancing every shift,” said Dr. James Augustine, a doctor in Cincinnati who works for US Acute Care Solutions, a company that employs doctors who work in emergency departments for hospitals around the country.
One of the main companies that makes the drugs, Pfizer, has warned that manufacturing problems at some of its plants will lower supplies of many of its products — like morphine — until next year.
In a survey publicized by the American College of Emergency Physicians in May, nine out of 10 ER docs said they had experienced shortages or absences of critical medicines in the past month.