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Shortage Of Critical Heart Attack Drug Seen Locally

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) — A critical drug used to treat heart attack patients is running short across the country and here at home in western Massachusetts. Nitroglycerin in it’s “IV” form is a staple to saving lives in emergency rooms.

“It’s a vasodilator, typically treats the IV form those that have had a mydocardiac infraction, or a heart attack,” Holyoke Medical Center Phamarcy Director Dr. David Gamblin said.

The FDA says nitroglycerin was previously made by Luitpold and American Regent, Baxter, and Hospira. In the past year, though, Baxter became the sole manufacturer and now even they are having keeping up with demand. Just recently manufacturer Baxter informed the FDA that they were facing manufacturing complications and a massive shortage.  So, bottles of nitroglycerin are hard to come by in emergency rooms nationwide. The drug works by widening arteries and veins when heart trauma patients desperately need help.

“It’s a fairly substantial problem,” Dr. Gamblin said. “There’s not a direct substitute for IV nitroglycerin so there are other medications that you can potentially use but none that are a one to one trade off.”

Dr. Gamblin says the drug is still being distributed, but slowly and in small amounts. The FDA says they continue “to work with the Baxter to address and resolve the shortage and continue to work with Hospira and American Regent as well since we would like to have all manufacturers back on the market.”

Meantime, Dr. Gamblin says substitute approaches are being used when necessary.

“There’s nitroglycerin paste, there’s a sublingual under the tongue nitroglycerin. There’s tablets, PO tablets that are also available,” Dr. Gamblin said.

There’s also other medications, that Dr. Gamblin says might not be as practical.

The FDA also says tht they are seeking alternative sources, including foreign suppliers, to fill the nitroglycerin void until domestic makers can get back on track. They hope to have more normal amounts stocked in the coming weeks.

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