Nitroglycerin, a Staple of Emergency Rooms, Is in Short Supply (NYT)

The drug nitroglycerin has long been an emergency room staple, a front-line drug that is often the first thing doctors try when a patient shows up with a heart attack. So when Baxter International, the country’s only manufacturer of injectable nitroglycerin, recently told hospitals that it was sharply cutting shipments of the drug, the news sent pharmacists and emergency room doctors into a panic. Hospitals have been struggling for years with intermittent shortages of the drug, but with the latest news, doctors worried they could actually run out. A report by a federal watchdog agency last month found that the number of annual drug shortages tripled from 2007 to 2012. Like the nitroglycerin shortage, many of the shortfalls involve generic injectable drugs, which are often made by just a handful of manufacturers. The report, by the Government Accountability Office, cited a study that found just three manufacturers produced 71 percent of the country’s sterile injectable cancer drugs in 2008.

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