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The American pharmaceutical industry is grappling with a worsening shortage crisis, with ambulance services in Tennessee being hit especially hard. A number of essential medicines are in such short supply that emergency vehicles in the Volunteer State are unable to assist patients in need.

Rick Valentine, President of the Tennessee Ambulance Service Association (TASA), highlighted the effects of this shortage by referring to a common emergency call for patients suffering from hypoglycemia, a condition that occurs when blood sugar levels drop dramatically. In such cases, paramedics usually turn to D-50, a type of dextrose (sugar) that can quickly revive the unconscious patient.

However, due to ongoing manufacturing issues and supply chain problems, D-50 is no longer widely available. Valentine stated, “The brain relies on sugar and when sugar levels drop, it affects brain function. Restoring normal blood glucose levels is crucial and it’s unfortunate that it is taking longer to achieve this without the necessary D-50.”

In the absence of D-50, TASA doctors have come up with a substitute solution: administering IV bags with a lower concentration of dextrose. Although this alternative will still revive diabetic patients, it will take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, as opposed to D-50’s one-minute revival time. This delay could pose a problem for more serious and pressing cases that require faster resuscitation.

Most ambulance departments throughout Tennessee have orders in for D-50, but the wait for the drug to arrive continues. In the meantime, TASA is doing everything possible to care for patients with alternative medicines such as dextrose IV bags, even if they are not as effective.

Valentine also confirmed that ambulance services throughout Tennessee are facing shortages of critical narcotics used in emergency medicine. However, most of these drugs are easier to replace with viable alternatives compared to D-50 and other drugs that are currently in short supply or unavailable.

The manufacturing delay letter sent out by Pfizer in August 2022, confirmed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warned of expected shortages until at least December 2023. This, combined with an overburdened federal government, is causing widespread shortages in America.

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