The saline shortage has been going on since 2014, but when Hurricane Maria hit Baxter’s saline plant in Puerto Rico, it got much worse. A recent NBC News article reported that physicians are rationing their saline supplies and using Gatorade and Pedialyte as rehydration solutions. As the U.S. approaches peak flu season, the demand for saline will surely rise, placing more pressure on current stock.
In addition to rehydration, saline solution is also used to dilute and administer chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics. This is done with the mini 50-100ml bags produced in Puerto Rico. However, the shortage has caused hospitals to use bigger, less convenient bags and forced nurses to “push” drugs manually. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb believes the shortage will improve in early 2018 as Baxter’s plant resumes production.