COVID-19 is having widespread effects on the healthcare industry. From overburdening healthcare facilities to causing hospitals to run out of critical supplies, the novel coronavirus is putting a heavy strain on healthcare providers, doctors, and drug manufacturers across the world.

Due to the highly volatile nature of the issue, it’s no surprise that COVID-19 is having a severe impact on drug shortages. This is a dangerous issue, as drug shortages can impair patient care and cause healthcare providers to incur large costs as they struggle to find drug alternatives.

Currently, the FDA is closely monitoring the medical product supply chain, fully expecting further supply disruptions or drug shortages to arise from the pandemic. As of February 27th, one manufacturer alerted the FDA of a drug shortage related to a side effect of the coronavirus. The FDA is also in touch with nearly 200 other manufacturers, looking into 20 drugs in particular that rely on China to supply their active pharmaceutical ingredients or finished drug products.

However, the situation has significantly escalated since the FDA’s February statement. While the lack of ventilators to help patients with COVID-19 is a frequent topic in the news, doctors are now concerned that these machines will be useless if patients can’t get the essential drugs they need to remain comfortable and stable on a ventilator. Without being sedated, most patients will try and rip out a ventilator’s tubing, preventing them from getting the oxygen that they need. Sedatives, along with painkillers, are already running low in many countries, including the United States.

With how quickly hospitals are running through supplies, these shortages only stand to get worse. As an example, compared to the entire month of February, one hospital in New York State went through the following in just one week in March:

  • 10 midazolam drips (compared to none in February)
  • Twice as much propofol
  • More than three times as much dexmedetomidine
  • 17 morphine drips (which were only previously used for palliative care)

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. It’s estimated that in just 24 hours, a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator could require a spread of nearly 50 different medications, including sedatives and cardiac, respiratory, and antimicrobial drugs.

While it’s impossible to predict exactly how much COVID-19 will impact the healthcare industry, it’s clear that this pandemic will only lead to worsening drug shortages for quite some time. As always, you can monitor any current drug shortages, including those that are related to COVID-19, on the FDA’s Drug Shortages webpage.