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America is facing another opioid crisis: Hospitals experiencing shortages of painkillers




Lactated Ringer's solution and sodium chloride IV bags are seen in the operating room during a kidney transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital June 26, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Lactated Ringer's solution and sodium chloride IV bags are seen in the operating room during a kidney transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital June 26, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

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As the opioid crisis grows in prominence both in communities across the U.S. and on the political stage, there’s another opioid issue that’s rising to the forefront: the shortage of strong painkillers in hospitals.

Shortages of opioids and other powerful painkillers, such as injectable Dilaudid, fentanyl and morphine, which are needed for surgeries as well as patients with acute terminal pain, such as in the case of cancer, are becoming a problem in hospitals, including some in California, such as Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health. This deficit started intensifying last year, caused by obstacles in manufacturing as well as government restrictions which were imposed in efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

Hospitals find themselves triaging and rationing drugs, leaving some lower priority patients with weaker pain meds.

How bad is this shortage and where does it hit hardest? What are the causes? And how are hospitals managing with a limited supply of these painkillers?

Guests:

Pauline Bartolone, reporter covering health policy for California Healthline and Kaiser Health News; her recent story on this is “The Other Opioid Crisis: Hospital Shortages Lead To Patient Pain, Medical Errors”; she tweets @pbartolone

Shalini Shah, M.D., the head of pain medicine at the UC Irvine health system and Chair of the Committee on pain at the California Society of Anesthesiologists, a group of physicians across the state working on managing and responding to the drug shortages

Donald Kaplan, Pharm.D., regional Inpatient pharmacy director for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California