American hospitals are suffering a severe shortage of a basic supply, saline solution for IV use. Both the FDA and hospital pharmacists around the country have noted the shortage, which has driven up prices. IV bags of saline that would normally cost around $1 now can command prices five or six times higher. Keep in mind that this is salt water.
In addition, pharmacists and nurses have to work much harder to make certain the shortage does not have a negative impact on patient care. The vast majority of patients get IV saline sometime during a hospitalization.
There are three suppliers: Baxter Healthcare, B. Braun Medical and Hospira. Factory shutdowns over Christmas and New Year’s may have contributed to the problem. Whatever the source of the shortage, this crisis highlights the lack of a national plan for overcoming such emergencies.