Hospitals across the Piedmont are dealing with a shortage of drugs including morphine and fentanyl citrate

Hospitals across the Piedmont are dealing with a drug shortage.

The list includes morphine – a drug used in emergency rooms, surgical areas and inpatient facilities to help people manage severe pain.

“Right now, the FDA and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, or ASHP, has somewhere in the range of 150 to 200 drugs that are on shortage,” said Joe Maki, senior director, Pharmacy of Business Operations at Novant Health.

Dozens of drugs are listed as “currently in shortage” on the FDA’s website, including fentanyl citrate and hydromorphone.

Novant Health, Cone Health, High Point Regional and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center tell FOX8 that they have implemented supply management strategies because of the challenge.

Maki says there are two primary issues contributing to the current shortage.

“Hospira was a manufacturer that was acquired by Pfizer, so with that acquisition, Pfizer has done a lot of work to improve the production capability of their facilities, but with that construction and the improvements they’re making, they’ve had to stop supplying a lot of the drugs that they were historically supplying,” he said.

The other is Hurricane Maria.

The storm affected drugs that are produced in Puerto Rico.

Maki says his staff monitors the shortage lists consistently and immediately starts working with partners to implement conservation measures when necessary.

“We’ll try wherever we can to not use them where there are other options to conserve them, so that’s what we’ve done with morphine over the past year is conserve in our inpatient facilities so we can continue using them in our emergency rooms or surgical areas where we really need them,” he said.

That’s most likely why patients haven’t noticed any changes.

“They’re not going to know any of this work is happening and that`s our goal.”

The issue is not exclusive to the Piedmont, it’s a national problem.

Maki says the latest information his team has received indicates Pfizer’s shortage is expected to last into 2019 before the supply has fully recovered.

However, medical professionals are optimistic that there will be some improvement before then once a plant is back online.

Below are full statements provided to FOX8.

Cone Health:

“Emergency departments across America are dealing with continuing shortages of various medications. Cone Health pharmacists have a team that identifies potential shortages and looks for ways of reducing the impact. The team works to identify available substitutes, educate providers on alternatives and advising practitioners on matters of conversion. Cone Health works within its network to share medications. If needed, in large-scale emergencies, Cone Health will assist neighboring health systems.”

High Point Regional:

“While we have experienced some challenges with drug availability, we have been able to adapt and patient care has not been affected.”

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center:

“Health care systems around the country are continuously experiencing medication shortage challenges similar to the current national opioid shortage. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is diligently managing the current situation to ensure there is little to no impact on patient care.”