Ambulances Use Expired Drugs Due to Shortages

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by Russ Slaten

(ANCHORAGE, AK) - It may be the new norm. Medical professionals are feeling the effects of empty pharmacy shelves. Nationwide, the industry is learning to deal with a lack of supplies. In some cases, ambulances in Anchorage are being stocked with expired drugs.

The Medical Director of the Anchorage Fire Department, Dr. Michael Levy, said the lack of available medications is not a new story.

Dr. Levy said the fire department has not lowered patient care standards, and in order to stay ahead of the problem, emergency responders have been trained to use alternatives.

The fire department has lacked certain classes of drugs like 'paralytics' in recent months. Paramedics use 'paralytic' drugs when inserting a breathing tube down the esphagus to prepare for emergency medical procedures. Levy said its important to use the primary drug in this case because alternatives have different affects. The chosen paralytic drug acts in less than 10 seconds and lasts for up to 15 minutes, preventing long delays in time sensitive procedures for trauma victims.

Dr. Levy said keeping track of drug shortages has become a normal procedure, but by training with alternatives or using expired meds it takes care of the current need.

"Day-in day-out I'm just immensely proud of the guys and gals I get to work with on the fire department. They work in a very difficult environment, but we're doing the best we can with a bad situation, and I think we're doing at least a good a job as any system in the country to try to stay ahead of this," said Dr. Levy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the number of drug shortages has escalated over the last seven years, jumping from 61 drug products in 2005 to about 200 this year.

Dr. Levy said the level of potency for expired drugs has not really been proven. Expirations are set by the manufacturer, and Dr. Levy said the dates are a conservative estimate. The effectiveness of drugs begins to lessen over time with certain storage conditions.

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Bill said on Friday, Aug 24 at 8:07 AM

I liked how the video of the guy preparing the Effexor prescription had absolutely nothing to do with the narrative of using expired drugs on the ambulance service.

tony said on Thursday, Aug 23 at 2:22 PM

breathing tubes do not go in the esophagus. We paramedics place them in the trachea!

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