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Hospitals running out of key drug for COVID-19 patients

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  • Hospitals running out of key drug for COVID-19 patients


    Hospitals running out of key drug for COVID-19 patients
    Kelly GrantHealth reporter
    Published April 8, 2021
    Updated 4 hours ago
    Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

    Ontario physicians have been urged to ration one of only two drugs known to reduce mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients, a harbinger of what lies ahead for other provinces if the third wave keeps rising and Canada cannot secure more of the medication.

    A shortage of the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab is just one of the challenges Canadian hospitals face as faster-spreading and more dangerous variants overtake older versions of the coronavirus. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Ontario all have more COVID-19 patients in their intensive care units than at any other time during the pandemic.

    Ontario’s tally crossed 500 for the first time on Wednesday, one day after Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children announced it would open an eight-bed ICU for adult COVID-19 patients to help deal with the crunch.

    But treating an influx of critically ill COVID-19 patients takes more than finding extra physical space, said Andrew Morris, an infectious disease physician at Toronto’s University Health Network who helped craft new guidelines for rationing tocilizumab in Ontario.

    “It’s not just an ICU bed. It’s the bed and the ventilator and the people and the stuff,” he said, “which includes the drugs.”

    In the case of tocilizumab, Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table revised its clinical guidance this week to say that, “in light of ongoing drug shortages,” the IV medication should be doled out in smaller amounts and that no patient should receive a second dose.

    The change was made after several Ontario hospitals ran out of tocilizumab temporarily, forcing some to call other hospitals to plead for a back-up supply.

    “On the ground, our physicians have noted that our patients really do benefit from this medication,” said Martin Betts, medical director of critical care for the three hospitals that make up the Scarborough Health Network. “We’ve been concerned about supply for over a week now and we’ve been adjusting our criteria for how we’re using it. But as of [Tuesday] night, we’ve consumed all the supply that we’ve been allocated.”...