Shortage of Puerto Rico-made saline solution impending

Shortages of saline solution could cripple US hospitals after a major manufacturer’s Puerto Rico plants were damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Baxter International is one of the world’s primary suppliers of saline solution, which is used to administer a wide variety of intravenous medications and to treat dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.

The company sent letters to its customers on September 22, warning that it had lost days of production due to the hurricane. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement shortly thereafter, vowing to help Puerto Rico recover and ‘to prevent critical shortages of life-saving drugs made in Puerto Rico.’

Saline solution is critical to the delivery of many important drugs including chemotherapy, but the US could face shortages after Hurricane Maria damaged major manufacturing facilities for the solution in Puerto Rico 

In addition to treating dehydration, saline solution is used to dilute and deliver a host of drugs intravenously, and to flush out a patient’s system before and after a drug has been administered.

It is used in the delivery of dozens of drugs, including therapies for cancer, renal failure and antibiotics.

Baxter International is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, but three major plants that make medication delivery products in Aibonito, Guayama and Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Two of those were reportedly damaged by Hurricane Maria.

According to financial media company CSIMarket, Baxter International has a 36 percent share of the medication delivery market.

The Washington Post reported that Baxter had told its customers that it had rushed some of its products out of Puerto Rico in advance of the hurricane, and would send them rationed amounts of saline solution based on their typical usage.

Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed not only homes, but wrecked factory's like Baxter International's, where vital saline solution is produced

Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed not only homes, but wrecked factory’s like Baxter International’s, where vital saline solution is produced

A company spokesman reportedly said that ‘limited production’ of IV fluids had resumed in its Puerto Rico factories, but that it was hoping to use production from its more than 40 other facilities to supplement the shortages coming out of Puerto Rico.

There are several other manufacturers of saline solution, including Pfizer, but this isn’t the first time that shortages have been an issue.

In April, the US Department of Justice subpoenaed Pfizer in an antitrust investigation into its saline solution business, following national shortages of IV bags that began in 2013.

Hurricane Maria’s damage to Puerto Rico and manufacturers like Baxter could compound an already-existing saline solution problem in the US, not to mention supplies of other important drugs.

According to a 2016 report from Pharma Boardroom, about half of the world’s top-selling patented drugs are manufactured in Puerto Rico. 

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