Blessing Hospital is feeling the effects of a nationwide shortage of intravenous narcotics used for pain control. 

However, through conservation and the use of non-narcotic pain relief methods, Blessing continues to provide effective pain control to all patients.

Intravenous narcotics help control pain in patients unable to take oral pain medications. To conserve the supply of IV narcotics, doctors at Blessing are ensuring that oral opioids and other, non-narcotic pain medications and therapies are prescribed whenever possible and as soon as possible. 

This shortage involves only intravenous narcotics and not the pill forms of the drugs and affects medications available in the Blessing Emergency Center and for inpatient care.

Another conservation option under consideration is asking surgeons to voluntarily reschedule elective surgical procedures that would require high levels of IV narcotic use until the shortage is resolved. That could help further to maintain the limited supply for patients facing life-threatening situations, including trauma and emergency surgeries.

The nationwide shortage of IV narcotics occurred when Pfizer, the world’s largest manufacturer of the medications, changed production processes.  The shortage could last as long as a year.

“We have been monitoring this situation for months and put conservation measures in place from the start,” said Mary Frances Barthel, MD, chief of Quality and Safety, Blessing Hospital. “Thanks to the cooperation of the medical staff, the pharmacy staff and other caregivers, Blessing is in a better position than some other hospitals nationwide. Blessing is effectively treating pain in all patients.

“The shortage has provided an opportunity at Blessing and hospitals across the country,” Dr. Barthel added. “Doctors and patients are having different conversations about pain control and using one or more of the many safe, effective, non-narcotic pain relief methods available to patients who don’t require narcotics for pain relief.

“Due to America’s opiate overdose epidemic, this change was taking place before the nationwide shortage hit. The shortage has accelerated the interest in and use of non-narcotic pain relief methods,” she said.