FDA Reports Shortage of Sedation Drug Used for Putting COVID-19 Patients on Ventilators

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday updated its list of drugs in shortage to include the sedation drug midazolam, which along with other sedatives is being used to treat COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation.

The updated listings for five manufacturers note an increased demand for midazolam and may just be the beginning of what’s to come for other sedation drugs too.

Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists, told Focus via email: “We have multiple reports of increases in purchases and utilization of sedatives like midazolam, fentanyl, and propofol to treat COVID-19 patients who require mechanical ventilation.”

Stat News’ Pharmalot reported on this increasing demand for sedatives earlier this week, noting there has been a 51% increase in demand so far this month for half a dozen different sedatives and anesthetics. 

“The amount of sedatives saved from for elective surgeries is not enough to equal the increased use of sedatives for mechanically ventilated patients, especially considering the amount of sedatives needed and the duration these patients are on ventilators,” Ganio added.

He also noted that hospitals nationwide are preparing for a surge in cases of COVID-19 and they are attempting to acquire the supplies and medications necessary to meet the needs of those patients.

A Pfizer spokesperson told Focus via email: “We currently have ample supply of several presentations of Midazolam but are experiencing high demand for the product. As of today, Pfizer’s manufacturing and distribution network continues to operate without significant disruption. We’ve identified a list of medicines that are critical to treating patients with COVID-19 during this time. For many of these critical medicines, we have ample supply. For some, the unprecedented surge in demand for these products is limiting our ability to fully satisfy customer orders in the short-term. We are making every effort to advance the ordering of additional materials, increase our production of the most essential products, expedite orders to customers, especially those in high-impact areas, and allocate customer orders to ensure the most appropriate distribution.”

In addition to the sedatives, the unproven but potential COVID-19 treatment hydroxychloroquine sulfate is also listed as currently in shortage. Last week, FDA also released guidance on reporting drug shortages during the pandemic.

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