EMS crews facing shortages of potentially life-saving drugs

WAYNE TOWNSHIP, Ind. -- A potentially dangerous shortage of life-saving drugs could affect first responders ability to quickly treat patients in central Indiana. 

Lt. Jonathan Abernathy with the Wayne Township Fire Department says his crews are having to make changes in the way they give patients certain medicines because of the way it's being distributed now. 

Drugs like epinephrine - or adrenaline - a drug used to combat potentially deadly allergic reactions. 

"It used to come in a small box and it had the medication and a small syringe connected to it and all you had to do is connect it and administer it," said Lt. Abernathy. 

Now crews have to take an extra step to make sure epinephrine is given to patients in the right dosage - and those few seconds could mean life or death for a patient. 

And it's not just epinephrine, Lt. Abernathy says there are shortages of properly portioned saline bags and several other drugs that are used to treat life-threatening heart conditions.

"Some of the drugs have been large use of them, some of them have just been manufacturing issues and distribution issues," said Lt. Abernathy. 

Drugs like:

  • Levophed
    • Treats hypotension (life-threatening low blood pressure)
  • Epinephrine
    • Treats life-threatening allergic reaction.
  • Saline
    • Used to replenish fluids and electrolytes.
  • Levofed
    • Treats cardiogenic shock.
  • Adenosine
    • Treats irregular heartbeat.
  • Sodium bicarbonate
    • Treats cardiac arrest.

Lt. Abernathy says there are ways you - the patient - can help cut back on the need to use these drugs in the first place and that includes calling for medical help with your condition before it gets too serious. 

"If you have this wrong with you, you need to get to a hospital and call sooner so we can provide you the best care at the most appropriate time," said Lt. Abernathy. 

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