HealthDay News — An ongoing shortage of the drug nitroglycerin is causing problems and concerns for U.S. healthcare providers — the drug is often the first therapy used by emergency room clinicians when treating a heart attack patient.

“It’s one of those drugs that in certain circumstances, there really is no substitute for,” Frederick Blum, MD, an emergency doctor who treats patients at Ruby Memorial Hospital in West Virginia, told The New York Times.

He added that nitroglycerin supplies are so low that “if we had one or two patients that were really sick that needed extended drips, it could exhaust our supply pretty quickly.”

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Hospitals and healthcare providers became concerned they might run out of the drug when Baxter International, the only U.S. manufacturer of injectable nitroglycerin, recently said it was slashing shipments of the drug.

Baxter became the sole supplier of the drug after two other drug-makers, Hospira and American Regent, stopped producing nitroglycerin due to manufacturing problems.

Adding to supply problems, Baxter recalled a lot of nitroglycerin in 5% dextrose in November after particulate was observed in a vial.

This week, Baxter and the FDA said they were taking action to ease the shortage of nitroglycerin. American Regent has upgraded one of it’s manufacturing plants and plans to stage supplies once production expands, according to a bulletin from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. In the meantime, the FDA has located a foreign supplier that can provide the drug in coming weeks.

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