Addressing the IV Fluid Shortage


A shortage of medical saline solution bags is affecting hospitals and clinics all over the country. The most significant impact is on the small bags known as “mini bags,” which are used to administer IV fluids. For cancer patients, the saline solution in the bags is mixed with chemotherapy and then delivered steadily through an IV.

Why Saline Bags are in Scarce Supply

The shortage is attributed to several factors. According to the American Hospital Association, the scarcity was triggered by the consolidation of pharmaceutical companies and production delays caused by serious quality issues. The shortages worsened dramatically due to Hurricane Maria’s impact on manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico. Almost 50 pharmaceutical companies have facilities on the island, including Baxter, one of the largest producers of IV fluids and other essential medications.

Our Response to the Shortage

Although the Food and Drug Administration is actively working with manufacturers to resolve the shortfall, we expect this to be a long-term situation. Because patient safety is our top priority, we’ve developed our own plan in response. This includes:

  • Problem-solving as a team to identify solutions

  • Switching many pre-chemotherapy medications to an oral form

  • Taking steps to minimize out-of-pocket costs to patients (currently $5 for oral medication*)

The impact of the shortfall is far-reaching because saline is in high demand. In addition to chemo infusion, the bags are used for many other purposes, such as reversing dehydration, diluting pain medications and delivering antibiotics. As always, we’ll continue to monitor the situation, adapt our approach and keep you up-to-date as things evolve.

*$5 fee covers Benadryl up to 50mg, Decadron up to 20mg, Pepcid up to 40mg, and Zofran up to 16mg. Additional fees may apply to other anti-emetic medication such as Emend, Akynzeo and/or Varubi. 

Michelle LeCompteComment