IV bags in short supply across US after Hurricane Maria

Devastation caused by hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico amplified an ongoing IV bag shortage in the US

Story highlights

  • The US IV bag shortage began before Hurricane Maria harmed operations of a supplier in Puerto Rico
  • FDA has approved importation of bags from other countries

(CNN)Before Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, the United States had already experienced intermittent shortages of IV bags, which are used to administer and dilute medications. The devastation caused by the Category 4 hurricane -- the first to hit the island in more than eight decades -- amplified the IV bag shortage, in particular sodium chloride 0.9% injection bags, which are ubiquitous in medical facilities and hospitals.

Puerto Rico, which produces more pharmaceuticals by dollar value for the nation than any of the individual 50 states or any foreign country, has been key to the supply of these IV saline bags.
    Since early November, the US Food and Drug Administration has issued updates and guidance to hospitals and medical facilities.
    On Tuesday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, said in a statement the agency continues "to expect that the shortage of IV fluids will improve in the coming weeks and months."
    Measures taken by the FDA include working with manufacturers to import product into the US "from their foreign facilities," said Gottlieb.
    The FDA has already approved IV saline products from Fresenius Kabi, a global healthcare company headquartered in Germany, and Laboratorios Grifols, a separate global health care company based in Spain. This "is expected to result in increasing product supply in U.S. market in the next several weeks," said Gottlieb. He added that the agency is looking at "additional potential import sites" as well.
    The FDA is considering a way to extend existing supplies in hospitals. "If expiration dates can be safety extended, it would allow some near-expiry product that remains at the hospital level to be used," said Gottlieb.
    "Despite these steps, it may still take more time for new product supply to diffuse across the marketplace and have a noticeable impact on product availability," he said.
    In a previous statement on January 4, Gottlieb noted that Baxter International Inc., "a leading producer of IV saline fluids," had reported their Puerto Rican facilities had returned "to the commercial power grid" on the island before the holidays.