Drug Shortages and Pediatric Care

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By Amy Mansue

Bactrim. It’s a basic antibiotic, often used to treat varying strains of pneumonia.

IV electrolytes. It’s nourishment you receive intravenously when you shouldn’t—or can’t—eat your food the usual way.

Chemotherapy drugs. Aggressive cancers call for aggressive treatments.

And at hospitals throughout New Jersey—particularly our children’s hospitals—shortages of these basic and extraordinarily vital medications are cropping up at an alarming rate. In the case of Bactrim, the situation is all the more dire; winter is just around the corner, one of the prime times during the year for contracting pneumonia.

Nationally, children’s hospitals account for less than five percent of all hospitals—but they provide more than 45 percent of pediatric and neonatal inpatient treatment. These same hospitals often rely upon specialized medicines to treat the pediatric patients in their care, and these medications can be difficult to obtain on a regular basis. When the pharmaceutical supply chain is disrupted the difficulty is only exacerbated, and prevents these hospitals from providing the highest-quality care possible.

An “early warning system”, one which mandates that pharmaceutical companies notify the Food and Drug Administration that supplies of produced medications are running low, is a crucial first step forward in preventing the types of medication shortages we are experiencing in New Jersey and throughout the nation’s children’s hospitals.

Congressman Steve Rothman has already signed on to H.R. 2245, the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act of 2011, and there is an identical version of the bill, S. 296, awaiting consideration in the United States Senate. If you reside in Congressman Rothman’s district, I urge you to thank him for his support of these important pieces of legislation, for these bills help build the “early warning system” so desperately needed to protect our pediatric and neonatal patient populations.

I urge all members of our Congressional delegation to lend their voices to those advocating for the passage of H.R. 2245 and S. 296. These shortages present a clear and present danger to one of our most vulnerable populations. It is not an issue that should be held hostage to the vagaries of partisanship. Democrat, Republican, Tea Party—these labels divide and distract; concern for the futures of the thousands of children who rely on proper medical treatment should be a uniting force that transcends those labels and moves us all forward, together.

This is an issue about children, about their health, about their future, and about their lives. Please join me in urging our Congressional delegation to lend their support to H.R. 2245 and S. 296, the Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act of 2011.

Amy Mansue is President and CEO of Children’s Specialized Hospital. Her email is: amansue@childrens-specialized.org


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