Ambulances across Tennessee facing medicine shortage

The drug shortage across America is catching up with first responders.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 5:09 PM CST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - People throughout the United States have seen many different drug shortages, but now even ambulances are struggling to keep certain medications in stock.

Previous coverage: Type 2 diabetes drug shortage continues

Ambulances across Tennessee are feeling the pressure of this shortage, considering one of their most commonly used medications is unavailable. Dextrose 50%, known in the medical field as D-50, is used for diabetic patients experiencing Hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia occurs when a patient’s blood sugar is too low. D-50 is used when a patient is not able to drink enough liquids or when additional fluids are needed.

Dextrose is also used in many different medical conditions as well.

Rick Valentine, the President of the Tennessee Ambulance Service Association, said this shortage doesn’t affect the treatment of the patient, it just may take a little longer than normal

“D-50 is kind of unique in the fact that there’s not really an alternative, and so we’re having to use other formulations of IV-administered fluid that has a much less concentration of sugar in it. So it’s taking longer to wake up patients that suffer insulin shock or low glucose,” said Valentine.

Valentine said ambulances are also facing a narcotic shortage. However, alternative medication for narcotics is easier to find.

According to Valentine, drug shortages are something EMTs have been dealing with for a decade now.

“We have been dealing with it for over a decade, with medication shortages. Anything from narcotic pain medicine that we use and then some critical cardiac medicines has been back ordered previously before. So, we have to work with our Physician Medical Director and alter our protocols, then figure out what we need to do in the best interest of the patient to care for them,” said Valentine.

Most ambulance service departments have placed orders already for D-50 and are waiting for them to be filled. Valentine wants patients to know EMTs are doing everything they can to treat them and give them the best possible care.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer said the shortage is expected to last until the end of the year.