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With Saline in Short Supply, Hospitals Look for Alternatives

Lena J. Weiner, for HealthLeaders Media, May 16, 2014

"For the most part, we're able to use an alternative. You can [stretch supplies] for a long period of time, but if you run out of product, you can find an alternative that works for the patient," he said.

Still, the widespread saline shortage can be more than inconvenience. It can drive up costs. Some providers, particularly small and rural community hospitals, may not have a pharmacy resources to formulate alternatives and have fewer options for sourcing alternatives.

Root Cause Analysis
"The question I'd like answered is, why is this happening?" says Jaspan. "I can't get a straight answer from anyone as to why this is occurring. We had adequate supplies until five months ago.

"I read through one [pharmaceutical] company's letter—they blamed the shortage on flu season. But the flu wasn't that big [of a problem] here," he said.

Bona E. Benjamin, director of medication-use quality improvement with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), has another theory. She believes the saline shortage is rooted in product recalls.

"Most saline solution used in the US comes from one of three big pharmaceutical firms. There is one other supplier that is significant as well. Of the three firms, two [had] recalls of saline solution in late 2013. [The other] announced that they had a routine maintenance shut down. With the recalls and [manufacturing] shutdown, that strained the supply. Additionally, one more supplier from Europe that supplies saline solution for dialysis had an import delay from their plant in Mexico, which shifted demand to US suppliers," explained Benjamin.

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3 comments on "With Saline in Short Supply, Hospitals Look for Alternatives"


Janet Mlinar (5/20/2014 at 1:32 AM)
I agree with making or at least storing large quantities of IV saline in hospital pharmacies. Along with reusing the same IV bag with the same patient. As long as sterile refills are applied. We have a growing population of people worldwide. Part of keeping up with this demand is having large quantities of what we know we will need at hand or at least having the capability of making or compounding medications as needed.

MB Rosenstiel, RN, DNP (5/16/2014 at 2:38 PM)
Seems to a clear move to increase the cost of a relatively inexpensive healthcare item to me. Perhaps it is time for pharmD's to compound in-house and use all the education they recieved. Might actually be less expensive and safer in the end!

David Morledge, PhD (5/16/2014 at 10:27 AM)
A broken system. Clearly we need a national security initiative related to basic healthcare supply systems, with requisite manufacturing in the U.S.