What We're Reading: Virus Drugs Run Short; Rapid Tests Sent to High Priority Populations; Nonfatal Overdoses Rise

April 3, 2020

Drugs used by hospitals to intubate and treat patients with COVID-19 are in short supply; rapid tests will be sent to Native American, rural populations; data shows a rise in nonfatal drug overdoses between 2016 and 2017.

Hospitals Report Shortages of Drugs to Treat COVID-19 Patients

At-Risk Populations Set to Receive Rapid Testing

Data Shows Increase in Nonfatal Drug Overdoses

Some medicines used to alleviate breathing difficulty and sedate patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are being depleted due to high demand, The New York Times reports. Medications including those used to keep individual’s airways open, antibiotics, antivirals, and sedatives, have been the most commonly reported shortages. According to the Times, the demand for fentanyl increased by 100% in March, along with sharp increases in other medicines for sedation and pain relief. While hospitals are bearing the brunt of the shortage, long-term care facilities, home care settings, and retail pharmacies have also reported shortages.The Indian Health Service and Americans living in rural parts of the country will have priority access to rapid COVID-19 tests, Politico reports. These populations were selected as they have limited access to testing and nursing homes, according to Deborah Birx, a White House coronavirus coordinator. The FDA recently authorized Abbott Laboratories’ point-of-care test that can return results in around 15 minutes. However, according to Kaiser Health News, only around 5500 of these tests will be distributed to state and local health labs.New CDC data shows that in addition to increases in fatal drug overdoses, rates of nonfatal overdoses have increased in recent years. Between 2016 and 2017 fatal drug overdoses increased by 10% in the United States. In that same time frame, the number of emergency department visits for nonfatal overdoses rose 4%. Specifically, nonfatal overdose rates increased by 3.1% for all opioids, 3.6% for non-heroin opioids, 3.6% for heroin and 32.9% for cocaine. The highest overdose rates for all drugs were among females and individuals in the Midwest.