The International Associated of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Board of Directors has adopted a position statement on U.S.-wide trends of fire departments and EMS agencies experiencing critical shortages of drugs that are used to save the lives of patients that may be suffering from trauma or a medical emergency. The IAFC Position Statement on the National Drug Shortage (pdf) calls on the American fire service to make addressing the national drug shortage a top priority.
The position was brought forward to the IAFC leadership by the IAFC EMS Section following extensive research and discussions with local and national stakeholders.
“A solution must be found; paramedics must have the crucial and necessary drugs to save the lives of their patients,” said Chief Gary Ludwig, chair of the IAFC EMS Section. “The ability to administer the appropriate pharmaceutical products to patients in the field can be the difference between life and death. We all know that rapid intervention is essential in these situations; waiting to administer life-saving drugs until the victim reaches an emergency room–at least 10 to 15 minutes after we have begun care–creates a serious and unnecessary risk.”
The position statement draws on federal government and medical industry research, which illustrates the growing problem. The number of drug shortages have tripled in just 5-years time and shortages are becoming more severe and more frequent. Currently, there is no comprehensive data on the specific impact caused by drug shortages on fire-based EMS; however, much of the risks identified in the research (e.g. delay in care, human error, prohibitive expense, etc.) are easily extrapolated to the EMS-environment.
The position statement includes three components:
- an educational component on the national drug shortage including associated risks, identification of factors contributing to the national drug shortage and fire department impact,
- an outline of the IAFC positions on issues relating to federal investment and processes, national laws and regulations, and improved interagency collaborations, and
- suggested actions for fire and emergency service leaders.
“The national drug shortage is having a major impact on fire-based EMS, but it is also a larger public safety issue,” said IAFC President Al Gillespie. “Even if your department does not provide EMS, the repercussions of shortages in your community can negatively impact your ability to successfully save lives and the ability of others to help responders in need of emergency care. I encourage every fire service leader to educate themselves on this issue and become a part of the solution.”