Minnesota hospitals face critical shortage of pain medications: 5 things to know

Several Minnesota hospitals are struggling to maintain adequate supplies of critical care drugs, including the pain medications needed for surgery and recovery, according to the StarTribune.

Here are five things to know:

1. There is a nationwide shortage of pain meds like fentanyl and morphine, which are injectable opioid pain medications, considered critical for surgeries and recovery, according to the FDA website. The shortage resulted from production delays due to a number of changes and upgrades at a Pfizer facility in Kansas. The shortage was further exacerbated by issues related to manufacturing quality at that same facility. Shortages are expected through 2019.

"Pain medications are what keeps the wheels on the bus for the hospital," Jeffrey Bouman, pharmacy manager at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis told the StarTribune. "These drugs are what makes us tick, what makes us work."

2. In Minnesota, hospitals are forming special pharmacy teams to monitor inventories and search for new sources of these injectable pain medications.

3. While pharmacy managers have been able to meet demand for pain management, during this nationwide shortage of injectable opioids, pharmacy staff members have shifted from the normal routine by using a similar drug or the same drug in a different dose. These slight departures from the normal routine require retraining physicians and nurses to avoid harmful medication errors.

"It causes the health system a lot of pain, literally," Vini Manchanda, vice president of supply chain services at Bloomington, Minn.-based based HealthPartners, told the StarTribune.

4. While these workarounds are helping, the common pain drugs are very hard to find.

5. There are several other critical medications in short supply, including EpiPen, the lifesaving epinephrine injection for allergic reactions, antibiotics and saline bags.

Read the full story here.

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