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Kirkwood Fire Combats Drug Shortage

A sedative used in emergency situations is hard to come by this month, but the Kirkwood Fire Department has found a solution.

Deputy Fire Chief of Emergency Medical Services David Smith is in a perpetual race to secure needed drugs for  trucks. 

"I call three times a week...and constantly keep an ear out when shipments come in," he said.

Drugs go fast as fire departments and hospitals across the region rush to stock up. At the moment, Kirkwood fire is short on etomidate, an injectable drug used to induce general anesthesia.

"We use the medication to sedate people who have airway problems and are fighting us. It helps us gain control," he said, adding the department also uses it in extreme cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

But Kirkwood fire finds innovative ways to work around drug shortages with the help of Medical Control. 

"For instance they may give us orders to use a narcotic to put someone to sleep to control (his or her) airway," Smith said. 

Shortages vary from month to month. Recently Kirkwood fire couldn't secure D50, a pre-mixed dextrose solution used to treat diabetic patients. But like in the case of etomidate, the department was able to find a fix. Personnel mixed the solution themselves. 

"It doesn't matter where you buy from, everyone is experiencing the same problem," Smith said. Kirkwood fire buys medicine through SSM St. Clare Health Center.

In West County,  Deputy Chief of EMS Nick Harpe .

According to Smith, shortages can result from drug companies' production lines shutting down as a result of particulate matter being found in batches of medications. Also, companies may not have enough raw materials to make drugs to meet the demand of the market. 

Kirkwood fire emergency response trucks are stocked on needed painkillers. Keeping them stocked, however, is a challenge. Smith is in constant contact with the Center for Disease Control to monitor what drugs might be running short the coming month to prepare accordingly.

For Smith, the race continues.

Other Patch stories about the Kirkwood Fire Department:

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