Anyone suffering over a prolonged period from the kind of seizure known as status epilepticus could have to wait longer for emergency care in New York City. The reason: Varieties of benzodiazepenes, sedatives that relax the muscles, have been in short supply. As of January, the drugs in need included injectable forms of diazepam (brand name: Valium), lorazepam (Ativan) and midazolam (Versed). Slower acting, oral forms of those medications were still plentiful.
The relaxant drugs were among approximately 270 medications in short supply around the country, said Captain Joseph Pataky of the Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Service. He blamed federal rules that fail to force drug companies to manufacture less profitable medications. The Food and Drug Administration cannot require a manufacturer to continue to make a drug, according to the FDA website.
“If you can’t get it, and there’s no alternative to it, what do you do?” said Pataky, who along with other medical professionals is calling for federal regulations to require drug companies to produce important medications and give more notice when a drug is about to go into shortage.
The Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City decided in April to downgrade the capabilities of any ambulance that cannot carry benzodiazepenes, which must be administered by paramedics. This could mean fewer advanced life-support paramedic ambulances citywide, which would lead to fewer responders who can provide advanced medical care, said Marie Diglio, the executive director of operations at the council.