Veterinary medicine suffers from a chronic, intractable, and insufferable problem. Vital drugs and medications constantly are on “backorder”. It drives me crazy, and it threatens the lives of animals everywhere. Frighteningly, it also happens in human medicine.
Backorder is the word used by distributors when a product is temporarily unavailable. Horrifically, temporary unavailability often precedes permanent withdrawal from the market. This has happened with several crucial, life saving medications over the years. Insulin seems especially prone to this problem.
When flat screen TVs go on backorder, you can read a book. When insulin, ketamine (an anesthetic agent), Terramycin opthalmic ointment (used frequently in cats), buprenorphine (a pain killer that’s especially useful in cats) or propofol (another anesthetic agent) go on backorder a clinician must find alternative medications. All of these products have recently suffered supply shortages.
But what if there is no alternative? Propofol is the only sedative I trust for delicate procedures such as thoracocentesis (tapping fluid from the chest) or pericardiocentesis (tapping fluid adjacent to the heart). Other medications (such as fentanyl, a narcotic) can be used, but they are nowhere near as reliable in my experience.
An article on Veterinary Information Network (VIN) foretells a potentially catastrophic supply shortage that may loom in the future. Intravenous furosemide (Lasix) may be withdrawn from the veterinary market. Furosemide is used to treat heart failure. For an animal in crisis, injectable furosemide is absolutely necessary. There is no substitute.
Fortunately, human injectable products are still available and they can be used by veterinarians. Oral furosemide is still available.
If all injectable furosemide products become unavailable people and animals will die. This is a very serious matter.
The worst part is that there’s nothing that can be done except hope that backordered products become available soon. I also confess to losing sleep worrying about which critical, life saving medication will be the next to go on backorder.
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