Busy summer season can cause drug shortages

Summers in eastern Idaho bring a flurry of tourists heading toward Yellowstone National Park, which also comes an influx of injuries.

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center handles trauma and other injuries people experience in the greater Yellowstone area. Almost on a daily basis, looking up in the sky, people can see a helicopter flying to or from EIRMC.

During the busy summer season, hospitals also experience a strain on medication supplies. Some hospitals across the nation are dealing with drug shortages, or simply don’t have any of the drugs they need in supply, a Sunday New York Times article detailed.

The Times article specifically mentioned a morphine shortage because “one of the main companies that makes the drugs, Pfizer, has warned that manufacturing problems at some of its plants will lower supplies of many of its products — like morphine — until next year.”

Clint Rohner, clinical director at EIRMC’s pharmacy, said the hospital’s medication supply is in good shape.

“At any given time in America there are drug shortages, there are companies that shut down shop and they’re the only maker of a product,” Rohner said.

He said the impact can vary, but the EIRMC pharmacy is used to dealing with it.

To manage the drug supply fluctuations, Rohner said the hospital’s protocols are specific with how its drugs are used. For instance, if a person comes in with a broken arm, they might be given fentanyl instead of morphine if there’s a low supply of morphine, Rohner said.

This saves the morphine supply for when fentanyl doesn’t work, or a patient has an allergy. No matter what the status of drug supplies are, trauma season is always busy due to high patient volume, Rohner said.

He said he hopes people are understanding with the possible changes in medication, but will still receive the same care quality that they normally would — just with the potential for different medications.

Reporter Isabella Alves can be reached at 208-542-6711 or follow her on Twitter @IsabellaAlves96.