New York Times, October 23, 2017
Katie Thomas

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[...] Now, hospital pharmacists across the country are racing to find alternatives — which themselves are becoming scarce — after Hurricane Maria halted production at the factory in Puerto Rico where Baxter, the manufacturer, makes the product.

The bag shortage is the most significant to be directly linked to the effects of the hurricane but others are likely to follow. In addition to creating a humanitarian crisis on the island, the storm knocked out production at the Puerto Rican factories that make vital drugs, medical devices and medical supplies that are used around the world.

Some device and supply companies have already begun limiting shipments of certain items from the island, ranging from mesh for repairing hernias to surgical scalpels and tools used in orthopedic surgery.

On Monday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, questioned companies’ statements that their plants were back in operation: “We understand that manufacturing is running at minimal levels, and certainly far from full production,” Dr. Gottlieb said in prepared remarks published Monday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He is scheduled to be questioned by the committee on Tuesday. In his prepared statement, Dr. Gottlieb said many plants are running at below 50 percent capacity, “with many firms operating around 20 percent capacity, and some even less. We have found no firm operating above 70 percent of their normal operation.” [...]

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