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Nov 9, 2012 8:00 PM by Danielle Lerner

UAMC bracing for possible drug shortages in wake of fungal meningitis outbreak

TUCSON- Hospitals across the country and right here in Tucson, now bracing for more prescription drug shortages as a result of that national fungal meningitis outbreak. The latest numbers link 31 deaths and more than 420 illnesses to those contaminated steroid shots.

University of Arizona Medical Center Pharmacy Director Kurt Weibel admits drug shortages are nothing new for hospitals, but he says the recent fallout from those tainted shots could make a bad situation even worse.

"It's usually injectable medication, not the type you're going to get at a retail pharmacy but more the meds we use here in the hospital," Weibel said.

Meds like Sodium Bicarbonate, an emergency medication used on critical care patients who go into arrest.

"It's something that we need to have on hand as a hospital," said Weibel.

For the past year-and-a-half UAMC has been dealing with various drug shortages, often stock piling, borrowing, even making its own meds. The hospital did not depend on the East Coast pharmacy at the center of the outbreak,NECC, or it's sister company, Ameridose, but several others did. Now that both pharmacies have halted production, there is much more demand than supply.

"Now those pharmacies are going to the pharmacy that we purchase a lot of products from," said Weibel. "Now they have twice as many pharmacies to supply drug to, so we expect some shortages there."

Still Weibel says the possible shortages should not cause patients to panic.

"This is something that we have the resources to handle here and with a network of cooperating within healthcare I think there are ways we can share medications," he said.

UAMC also has at least four people on staff, dedicated to monitoring drug recalls and shortages to make sure the patients do not have to go without needed medications.

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