Anesthesia shortages | Health
As the federal government wrestles with shortages of cancer drugs, there’s another group of drugs in short supply with even more far reaching effects.
They’re the drugs used by anesthesiologists to put you to sleep and control pain.
The shortage is so severe it's forcing many of these doctors to re-think how they practice, on a daily basis.
Welcome to medicine's new reality. Blame manufacturing problems and shrinking profit margins and we're seeing upwards of 300 commonly used medicines in short supply, and anesthetics are no exception.
Dr. Michael Simon is the president elect of the New York State Society of Anesthesiologists and practices with a group encompassing 27 hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers in New York and Pennsylvania.
He knows first hand how the shortages make a challenging specialty even more so.
Every morning Dr. Simon checks the shortage list in the pharmacy at Vassar Brother's Hospital in Poughkeepsie.
A few months ago it was propofal, now its fentenyl, and pain meds like lidicane.
Alternatives may take longer to work, and longer for the patient to recover.
Or administer general anesthesia because the drugs needed for a 'local' aren't available.
That hospital, Simon’s points out, was in Pennsylvania, and while it hasn't gotten that tight in New York, it could. He says it's like being on a teeter board.
So hospitals, like Albany medical center have to be vigilant and anticipate problems - working closely with retailers and wholesalers to insure an adequate supply and partnering with doctors.
The shortages prompt another problem. At some hospitals, Dr. Simons tells me, they have to buy in bulk and then put the drug into usable doses which opens the door to the potential for errors in a specialty that has absolutely no wiggle room.
The doctors tell me, some drug brokers are hoarding these drugs and 'jacking up' the prices, which affects everyone's bottom line.If you're facing surgery, ask your doctor what they'll be using, is it what they would normally do and if not, what precautions are they taking to keep you safe.
The state society of anesthesiologists is lobbying lawmakers to get involved and encourage patients to do the same.