Diabetic drug shortage has emergency responders on high alert

April 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A drug used to bring diabetics back to life when they have dangerously low blood sugar levels is in very short supply.

97 ambulances handle calls in Fresno County. Inside these vehicles are lifesaving tools, including Dextrose 50. But now, crews are being forced to only use this drug on the most critical patients.

Every day, ambulances respond to crisis situations. Many are medical calls that involve diabetics facing serious problems.

On board every American Ambulance is a drug called Dextrose 50. It is commonly used and instantly effective, but these are the final bottles left.

Edgar Escobedo of American Ambulance said, "But there's other drugs we can use and we are putting those drugs ahead of that. Oral glucose for example is a little bit slower to respond but does have an effect and in an emergency that's what we're gonna use is oral glucose."

Dan Lynch a Fresno County EMS said, "Some drugs like we had a shortage of morphine for pain management, and such we have other drugs that can take its place. In this particular circumstance with dextrose, we do not have that luxury."

A combination of government regulations and a shortage of raw materials have prompted the shortage according to Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch.

Rural areas in the Central Valley where patients are further away from hospitals have made the shortage even more of a concern.

The EMS system responds to about 4,000 diabetic calls in a year in Fresno County. In about 1,600 of these incidents, we actually use this drug dextrose.

First responders say the short supply should also serve as a reminder to diabetics to monitor their disease closely before sugar levels reach dangerous levels.

For now, the current supply on hand is all hospitals and ambulances can expect. There are no scheduled shipments slated for anytime in the near future.


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