Intensive care units across the country are running out of essentials, including anaesthetics and drugs for anxiety and blood pressure, after a “tripling of demand” sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
Six senior NHS doctors working on the front line, and drugs industry sources, say that the health service is running out of at least eight crucial drugs. Hospitals in London, Birmingham and the northwest of England have been especially badly hit.
Doctors said they were being forced to use alternatives to their “drug of choice”, affecting the quality of care being provided to COVID-19 patients. They also warned that some second-choice drugs might be triggering dangerous side effects such as minor heart attacks.
Ron Daniels, an intensive care consultant in the West Midlands, said the shortages had become “acute” already. “We don’t know what we’re going to run out of next week,” he said. “Safety isn’t so much the issue — it’s quality. It may be that we’re subjecting people to longer periods of ventilation than we would normally because the drugs take longer to wear off.”
Daniels added that some of the “second-line drugs” being used might be challenging to a patient’s heart: “We might be causing small heart attacks or subclinical heart attacks.”
Ravi Mahajan, president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, said work was being carried out to “preserve” key drugs for those most in need.
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Source: The Times, 26 April 2020
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