THE HILL: “While much attention has been placed on the desperate hunt for more ventilators, the machines are useless unless they are accompanied by drugs to sedate patients and eliminate pain.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Patients Over Pharma called on the Trump Administration to expand the use of the Defense Production Act to compel the pharmaceutical industry to produce the medications needed for critically-ill COVID-19 ventilator patients and release any supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile to areas in need. It is estimated that nearly a million COVID-19 patients will require ventilators throughout this pandemic, and without critical drugs , ventilators are “essentially useless” and will cause intubated patients already suffering to experience excruciating pain.

Last month, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn testified to the House Appropriations Committee that his department was “aware of pressure on the system” and would “alert the American public” of any shortages of these critical drugs. Yet despite invoking the Defense Production Act to increase production for ventilators, the administration has made no moves to increase the production of these critical medications or release any supplies currently available from the Strategic National Stockpile.

“It took far too long, but President Trump finally used used his authority to pressure manufacturers to produce ventilators, and now he shouldn’t allow his close ties to the pharmaceutical industry to prevent him from compelling them to dial up production of drugs needed to support COVID-19 patients the same way,” said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Patients Over Pharma. 

“Big Pharma may not want to shift production from profitable drugs to the ones most needed in this crisis, but that is exactly why the Defense Production Act gives the president this authority. It is moments like these that people need to be able to trust that the Trump Administration is acting in the best interests of patients and public health and not just protecting the pharmaceutical industry that has put millions of dollars into their pockets.”

Earlier this year, Patients Over Pharma released an updated and expanded version of their website, which reveals the latest on Trump Administration officials who made millions of dollars from the pharmaceutical industry, the number of pharmaceutical companies and lobbying groups represented in the Trump administration, the revolving door between the Trump Administration and the pharmaceutical industry, and more.

Background on National Drug Shortages for COVID-19 Ventilator Patients:

Hospitals Are Now Facing A Shortage Of Drugs Needed To Sedate Patients Who Are Put On Ventilators. “Hospitals are facing yet another new obstacle in the fight against the coronavirus: They are running low on the drugs needed to put patients on ventilators to keep them alive. While much attention has been placed on the desperate hunt for more ventilators, the machines are useless unless they are accompanied by drugs to sedate patients and eliminate pain. Now hospitals, particularly in hard-hit areas such as New York, say those drugs are getting scarce, along with the ventilators themselves.” [The Hill, 4/7/20]

Vox: “You can’t use ventilators without sedatives. Now the US is running out of those, too.” To save a Covid-19 patient’s life with a ventilator, you also need an ample supply of medications, both to be able to use the machine and to prevent agonizing pain. Experts say there’s a worrisome shortage of those, too — one that’s only expected to grow worse. ‘The minute you talk about ventilators you need to talk about medications,; says Esther Choo, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. Choo says hospitals are already running out of medications like fentanyl, versed, propofol, and even neuromuscular blockades, what she calls ‘everyday bread and butter medications,’ the drugs needed to induce and maintain sedation while on a ventilator. ‘Ventilators can’t really be used without these medications.’” [Vox, 4/6/20]

Daily Beast: “The Next Shortage That Could Kneecap Our Medical System.” “More than a dozen sedatives, anesthetics, painkillers, and muscle relaxants—all of which are used to help manage patient pain and comfort levels during mechanical ventilation—are in short supply, Stat News first reported last week… “You can’t intubate someone without one of those paralytic agents and sedatives and pain relievers,” said Erin Fox, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy for the University of Utah who tracks drug shortages across the country and directs the drug-information service at the university’s four affiliated hospitals. “I’m really glad that we’re talking about getting more ventilators, but it’s got to come with more medicine at the same time,” Fox told The Daily Beast.” [The Daily Beast, 4/5/20]

“U.S. May Get More Ventilators But Run Out Of Medicine For COVID-19 Patients.” “When patients are intubated, they’re given strong sedatives and pain medicine such as propofol and fentanyl, and sometimes paralytic drugs, as well. Without those medications, Morse says, “Most people will reach for the [breathing] tube and try to grab it and pull it out. They may fight against having it in their mouth. And if they’re working against a breathing machine, it can actually damage their lungs.” Now, with a surge of COVID-19 patients on ventilators, hospitals are burning through their supplies of those essential drugs.” [NPR, 4/4/20]

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Coronavirus ventilator treatment could be hindered by drug shortage at hospitals.” “Demand for many of the sedatives and pain and muscle relaxant medications necessary for ventilator use shot up by more than 50% in March, while the fill rate dropped at least 25% — meaning some hospitals were unable to get the full amount of medication they ordered, according to findings by Vizient, which provides analysis and advisory services for health systems. A surge in COVID-19 patients that is still expected in many states could further strain supply. “My fear is we’ll look back in a few weeks and have enough ventilators but we won’t have any of the drugs,” said Dan Kistner, a pharmacist and a senior vice president of pharmacy services at Vizient. “It’s like having all these cars and no gas to make them run.” [The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/3/20]

New York Times: “Essential Drug Supplies for Virus Patients Are Running Low.” Across the country, as hospitals confront a harrowing surge in coronavirus cases, they are also beginning to report shortages of critical medications — especially those desperately needed to ease the disease’s assault on patients’ respiratory systems. The most commonly reported shortages include drugs that are used to keep patients’ airways open, antibiotics, antivirals and sedatives… Medicines used for sedation and pain management, including fentanyl, midazolam and propofol, increased by 100 percent, 70 percent and 60 percent respectively.” [New York Times, 4/2/20]

ABC News: “Doctors fear shortage of drug critical to ventilator treatment for coronavirus.” “Patients continue to receive sedatives and pain relievers to keep them asleep while intubated, to prevent their bodies from fighting against both the breathing tube and the ventilator, which performs breathing functions for patients to allow their own lungs to heal. With many COVID-19 patients requiring ventilators for weeks, some health officials are worried that the nation’s supply of necessary drugs won’t be enough to help the country weather a prolonged and sustained outbreak across multiple cities and states.” [ABC News, 4/1/20]

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