Memphis Firm Warns of IV Saline Shortage

By Don Wade

Memphis-based Comprehensive Pharmacy Services, the nation’s largest pharmacy services provider, issued an advisory to its more than 400 hospitals and health systems clients throughout the country to prepare for a protracted intravenous saline shortage.

Greg Wenthe, a vice president with CPS, said the reason for the shortage was not known, but that there are concerns it could last for some time.

“We don’t really know what’s driving it,” Wenthe said.

“We’ve been doing this for 40 years, and we don’t see a clearly defined end to the current intravenous saline shortage so we are calling on the health care facilities we serve to take immediate action to help effectively manage through this crisis,” Marvin Finnefrock, divisional vice president for Clinical Services, said in a statement. “It can’t be business as usual, because the shortage is lasting longer than expected, so hospitals have to immediately focus energy, beyond finding the scarce supply, on managing what they have and engaging in thoughtful measures to best serve their patients.”

Wenthe said CPS does have several clients in the Memphis market, but declined to name them.

“Our job is help (clients) figure out how to use the best medication at the right time for a given situation,” Wenthe said of CPS.

Finnefrock explained that the IV saline shortage is particularly concerning because it is one of the most commonly used drugs in patient treatments.

“As other avenues are pursued, such as the Food and Drug Administration working with the manufacturers to step up production or the federal government releasing some emergency stockpiles, those solutions have hurdles and are well outside the control of health care providers, so they need to take matters into their own hands, as well,” Finnefrock added.

CPS is advising medical, nursing and pharmacy staff to work together to manage the IV saline shortage using a three-part approach involving conservation, substitution and communication.

To that end, CPS is recommending that medical professionals “set up basic guidelines leading to conservation of a limited resource.” Also, hospitals are advised to put in place plans for saline substitution where practical and possible, in case the shortage worsens or lasts for long time.