It Takes a Village…: Contending With Drug Shortages During Disasters

Lisa D. Burry, Jeffrey F. Barletta, David Williamson, Salmaan Kanji, Ryan C. Maves, Jeffrey Dichter, Michael D. Christian, James Geiling, Brian L. Erstad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Critical drug shortages have been widely documented during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, particularly for IV sedatives used to facilitate mechanical ventilation. Surges in volume of patients requiring mechanical ventilation coupled with prolonged ventilator days and the high sedative dosing requirements observed quickly led to the depletion of “just-in-time” inventories typically maintained by institutions. This manuscript describes drug shortages in the context of global, manufacturing, regional and institutional perspectives in times of a worldwide crisis such as a pandemic. We describe etiologic factors that lead to drug shortages including issues related to supply (eg, manufacturing difficulties, supply chain breakdowns) and variables that influence demand (eg, volatile prescribing practices, anecdotal or low-level data, hoarding). In addition, we describe methods to mitigate drug shortages as well as conservation strategies for sedatives, analgesics and neuromuscular blockers that could readily be applied at the bedside. The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need for a coordinated, multi-pronged approach to optimize medication availability as individual or unilateral efforts are unlikely to be successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2414-2424
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • critical care
  • disaster
  • drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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