California ASC, hospitals battle opioid shortage — 7 insights

Nationwide manufacturing issues have shrunk the supply of liquid forms of morphine, fentanyl and Dilaudid, which are injected to control acute pain after surgery, VC Star reports.

Here are seven insights.

1. The drugs, delivered by IV and syringe, may be used in colonoscopies or injected in joints after some orthopedic operations.

2. The Ventura, Calif.-based T Surgery Center hasn't run out of morphine, which it sometimes uses after orthopedic procedures, but Administrator Chris Behm said the shortage has affected supplies.

3. Ms. Behm said distributors price gouge when administrators seek supplies outside of normal distribution channels.

4. Hospitals are also struggling to obtain vials, IV bags and syringes, according to Shalini Shah, MD, chairman of the California Society of Anesthesiologists' pain medication committee and director of pain services for the UC Irvine health system in Orange.

5. With those supplies on back order and a shortage of injectable opioids, hospitals are using different opioid forms, different drugs altogether, or nerve blocks to control pain.

6. Pfizer placed a hold on syringes prefilled with opioids, and it's unclear when it will be lifted.

7. Several groups — including the American Society of Anesthesiologists — wrote to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials in February, asking them to reduce opioid production regulatory limits. The cause of the drugs and supplies shortage isn't entirely clear, according to Dr. Shah.

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