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First responders take drug shortage concerns to Congressman Rooney

Posted at 6:52 PM, May 25, 2018

A nationwide drug shortage affecting the ability of hospitals and EMTs to give patients life-saving medicine is being felt in Southwest Florida. Now, local physicians and first responders say it's time for the federal government to take action.

Congressman Francis Rooney took part in a discussion Friday at North Collier Fire-Rescue's Station 45, where first responders explained how medicines used to treat seizures, allergic reactions, and diabetic and heart emergencies are in short supply.

Jorge Aguilera, assistant chief with North Collier Fire, said his department sometimes shares any extra medicines they may have with other fire-rescue departments, and vice-versa. But sometimes, they run out of drugs.

"One day they weren't going to have enough pain medicine on all the trucks," Aguilera said. "So which truck do you choose that doesn't have pain medicine in it?"

"it does put people at risk who have any kind of emergency medical condition, in that we don't have the medicines that are available in our emergency kits to take care of them," said James Augustine, M.D., medical director for North Collier Fire.  

A Puerto Rican manufacturer impacted by Hurricane Maria is one reason that saline is so scarce. But Augustine said that shortages of other basic drugs, such as epinephrine, are harder to explain. He believes the solution has to come from the feds.

"We now have to ask the federal government for action," he said. "This is a national issue because there are very few makers of these various medicines. They're all governed by the federal government."

Congressman Rooney agreed that the shortage is a critical issue.

"The whole thing is totally out of control," Rooney said.

But he said that Congress has already taken some action to try to alleviate the drug shortage.

"We passed one bill the other day to try to speed up the use of generic drugs to increase supply," he said. "Hopefully that will help."