Saline shortage complicates flu treatment at hospitals nationwide

The ongoing saline bag shortage, caused by manufacturing disruptions in hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico, is complicating influenza treatment nationwide, reports CBS Philly.

Clinicians often use saline to dilute intravenous drugs prior to administering them to patients. To mitigate the saline shortages, many hospitals are switching patients from intravenous drugs to the same medication in pill form.

However, many flu patients can't keep oral drugs down, making the saline shortage a growing concern for hospitals nationwide amid rising flu cases.

"We all need to understand that there is a crisis brewing with this," said Joseph Montella, MD, vice president of medical affairs at Camden, N.J.-based Cooper University Hospital. The hospital has developed a program to conserve saline supplies, which includes protocols like regularly evaluating patients to ensure IV treatments are necessary and switching patients to oral medication whenever possible.

The FDA is confident saline supplies and other IV fluids will increase over the next few weeks, although shortages will not be resolved immediately.

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