Saline IV Shortage Coincides With Illness Outbreak

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January 16, 2015 — The New York Times reports that at least 17 people were sickened out of 40 who were mistakenly given unsterile intravenous fluid.

Dr. Alexander J. Kallen, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said hundreds of the bags were shipped to about 50 clinics by an unnamed distributor. It was not clear whether the bags were shipped in error or whether clinic workers ordered the wrong product.

According to Forbes, a chronic shortage of IV saline solution (salt water, also known as Sodium Chloride 0.9%) may have contributed to the problem.

The shortage has set the stage for a “Monty Python” scenario in which the United States — the country with the world’s highest per capita health costs — is importing bags of salt water by shipping them across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe.

Yesterday, the FDA warned that Wallcur’s simulated IV saline solution, Practi-0.9%, had been shipped to medical clinics and administered to patients. The bags look like normal saline, but they are only meant for training purposes. Instead of a medical-grade salt solution, they contain non-sterile, distilled water.

Patients who received the product almost immediately developed fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, tremors, or needed hospitalization. Adverse events were reported in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, and Colorado.

One person, a hospice patient, died after being given the solution. Health officials could not say whether the solution caused the death.

 

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