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U.S. Hospitals Facing Shortage of Contrast Dye Needed for Critical Scans

U.S. Hospitals Facing Shortage of Contrast Dye Needed for Critical Scans

The shortage “couldn’t have come at a worse time” and is expected to last through the summer.

As the US reels from a myriad of crises and essential product scarcities, another serious and potentially deadly shortage looms on the horizon.

The nation’s hospitals are beginning to run low on contrast dye that is injected into patients undergoing essential and life-saving scans (X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs).

The fluid, which makes the routine but potentially life-saving scans readable, helps doctors identify clots in the heart and brain. The shortage is expected to last until at least June 30, the American Hospital Association (AHA) says.

…GE Healthcare is the main U.S. supplier of contrast fluid, called Omnipaque.

The AHA has asked the company for more information on the shortage, saying hospitals rely on a consistent supply to diagnose and treat a wide range of patients, including those with life-threatening conditions.

“It is too easy for us to take for granted the readily available supply of something that is so important to our patients and our radiologic practices until it’s gone,” Dr. Thomas Grist said in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America.

The shortage in the dye is directly tied to China’s “zero covid” policies. Shanghai’s shutdown halted production in the facility that generates the bulk of the US Supply. The crisis could last through the summer.

GE’s Shanghai plant is a major supplier of the dye for U.S. health systems. Around 50 percent of U.S. hospitals and imaging centers likely use GE’s product, according to Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, though she added that the exact portion is hard to pin down.

“Most hospitals, for a product like this, would keep on hand maybe a couple weeks of supply,” Foster said. “But this shortage has been going on for a couple weeks now.”

The shortage is the result of a strict lockdown imposed on Shanghai on March 27 as part of China’s “zero-Covid” strategy. It caused the GE plant there to be shuttered for several weeks, though a spokesperson for GE Healthcare said in a statement that the plant has begun to reopen and is “working to return to full capacity as local authorities allow.”

The spokesperson added that GE is accelerating deliveries by shipping by air, instead of by boat, from both its Shanghai plant as well as a plant in Cork, Ireland, to address the U.S. supply issues.

But even so, health systems do not anticipate immediate relief. The shortage could last into the summer, forcing medical providers to postpone lower-priority imaging as they ration their stockpiles.

The timing of this shortage is also quite bad. Many people have put off medical visits and treatments for chronic health issues during the pandemic. The scans would be part of the medical regimen needed for diagnosis.

The shortage is nationwide, but as a state with one of the highest rates of cancer and vascular disease, patients in Louisiana are feeling it acutely. And with a large number of residents who put off procedures during the pandemic, health experts worry the shortage could lead to more missed diagnoses, just as patients are trying to catch up on scans.

“The shortage couldn’t have come at a worse time,” said Dr. Bradley Spieler, professor and vice chair of radiology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.

Meanwhile, American medical societies have been providing guidance to hospitals on ways to conserve the dye.

“We give IV contrast in the patient’s veins to enhance a specific organ of interest what we’re looking at. It could be looking for a bleeding inside the body or a stroke or infection, or in my case, we look for a blockage of arteries of the heart,” said Dr. Sharath Subramanian, a cardiologist at CentraCare. “To look for artery blockages, the best way to do this is contrast, and there’s no alternative for that.”

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Hospital Association said in part, the shortage is “presenting a challenge for our hospital and health systems, and they are working hard, like with any other pharmaceutical shortage, to put in plans to serve their patients.”

Subramanian said due to the global shortage of the dye, his hospital has been exploring other options, such as conducting a different type of scan, conducting a scan without using the dye or using less of the dye.

Another valuable lesson from this development would be making sure we have trusted, local supplies of life-essential goods.

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Comments

So now we can’t even make the dyes we invented? This is the insanity of Bush and Clinton selling out America in favor of China.

The Gentle Grizzly | June 2, 2022 at 9:39 pm

And, I have a scan next week.

The Gentle Grizzly | June 2, 2022 at 9:45 pm

GEHealthcare is the main U.S. supplier of contrast fluid, called Omnipaque.

Does GE actually MAKE anything anymore? All they seem to do is sell their name for a licensing fee.

    henrybowman in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | June 3, 2022 at 12:29 am

    I’m so old I remember that Progress is GEs Most Important Product.
    Back in those days, they had no idea that Progressives would turn out to be such fuckups.

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to henrybowman. | June 3, 2022 at 6:09 am

      The later slogan, “We bring good things to life” means two things, and is clever. Now, they could just say “We sell out to anyone”. I am careful about what I buy, and GE appliances are off my list. Nothing but re-badged Haier products from China. Haier bought the GE name for major appliances.

      Rumor has it they still make turbines and airplane engines.

Albigensian | June 2, 2022 at 10:07 pm

Long (and often) fragile supply chains, just-in-time, keep minimum or no inventory methodology, dependence on sole-source materials from questionably reliable suppliers: IF all this works then perhaps some things might be just a little less expensive. Maybe, sometimes.

But how wise is it to depend on such an inherently fragile system to obtain critically important materials, and how costly (in lives and cash) can one reasonably foresee this to be when, inevitably, something in this absurdly complex chain breaks?

Availability of costly and talented medical professionals, million-dollar diagnostic and imaging apparatus, and all for naught for lack of a simple chemical formulation- that just had to be sourced from the ends of the Earth because doing so was a few cents cheaper?

Yet another product done in by the shutdown of so-called ‘non-essential’ industries.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to Olinser. | June 3, 2022 at 6:09 am

    In this case I don’t think it is that as much as it is GE not making anything anymore.

““To look for artery blockages, the best way to do this is contrast, and there’s no alternative for that.” ah…not so…. still there is a major shortage and the off-shoring of meds to China is the result. I use Omnipaque… so …yep… it’s going to be a mess. I guess FDA will say… just wear a mask.

Look, if you have a shortage of radiology dyes, just prioritize the African American patients first. You know, the monoclonal antibodies are the governing precedent here. You should also deplete whatever stockpiles are held by the Federal VA hospitals, because veterans should be last in line.

I’m beginning to think “zero covid” was never about covid, it’s about squeezing the US and Europe. Its effects on China’s domestic population is just a cost the CCP is willing to impose on its own citizens (you don’t think Party members are locked down, do you?) in order to make it so.

Oh, look, yet another shortage under the mal-governance of the pedophile-in-chief. Strange that we didn’t have these problems when we had a real, legitimately-elected president. just with this incompetent pedophile.

healthguyfsu | June 3, 2022 at 12:15 am

For once something we can’t blame Biden for (he has enough crises and can’t handle more according to his press secretary).

This is on GE to pick up the slack domestically when they know production is being reduced abroad from their BS overseas sweatshops.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to healthguyfsu. | June 3, 2022 at 4:18 am

    GE, like GM and others, could try being American companies again, rather than using the US as an address of convenience.

    Ironclaw in reply to healthguyfsu. | June 3, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Yeah, we can still blame the pedophile. He’s in the seat, he takes the heat.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Ironclaw. | June 3, 2022 at 9:49 am

      Sure you can…it just takes the sting off of the many legit criticisms you can levy if you just sling baseless mud.

      Let’s not be Dems and pull the wall to wall trump strategy.

      Please tell me what limited gov strategy that Biden should have adopted to prevent this.

    stevewhitemd in reply to healthguyfsu. | June 3, 2022 at 11:05 am

    “Pick up the slack domestically?”

    How?

    There’s no production facility in the U.S. Starting one up would be a great idea but would take a lot of time to buy and install equipment (assuming one can, the equipment may also come from China), train staff, get FDA approval (mandatory, it’s medical), and so on. Even if the Federal government got out of the way (hah) it’d take at least a year.

    And once you open a facility here you’d be at risk of being under-cut by the production from … China.

    Good luck picking up the slack.

      CommoChief in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 3, 2022 at 5:22 pm

      Simple. Start requiring incrementally higher percentages of domestically produced items in govt contracts. Declare this list of items to be of strategic importance and set a multi year timeline. Begin with contrast, basic pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and so on. Set long-term contracts for these strategically important items to supply Fed purchase contracts so the manufacturer is willing to invest in new plant and equipment for domestic production.

      Streamline the permitting and approval process using waivers if required or hell get buy in from Congress to change the regulatory framework entirely. No single company gets more than a 20% share to increase the number of domestic production sites. Then expand to include these same requirements for all federal grant or program recipients as the capacity comes on line.

      Do that and pretty soon we have reshored a good deal of domestic manufacturing, created primary and secondary employment and worked to reinvigorate the middle-class American dream.

Joe Biden could actually be the last president of the 50 United States. I don’t see how we can remain intact.

TheOldZombie | June 3, 2022 at 2:34 am

This country is going to lose it’s shit the day China invades Taiwan and we are in a war against China because 80% plus of all our medical drugs and supplies come from China.

Even if that number is too high it’s still going to be high enough that we are going to have severe shortages of a lot of stuff.

And than you add in all the other stuff China makes. None of that stuff will be coming to America if we are busy fighting China. Walmart would be empty in a week.

Plus all the shortages caused by losing Taiwan.

Shipping the majority of our stuff over to other countries to make for us was a massive mistake. A mistake that we will pay for one day,

I think our boys that are fighting on the Malabar Front need the rationed contrast dye more than we do.

This is a strange battlefield.

Gosh if only some group had pointed out the dangers of becoming dependent upon fragile international supply chains for critical goods. /s

” because 80% plus of all our medical drugs and supplies come from China.”
****
Last estimate that I read was 90% of antibiotics and 80% of the “active” chemical in medications. A few years ago, there was a big recall of a Blood Pressure Med., Valsartan. The interesting thing was that all of the generic “Pills” no matter where manufactured were contaminated. All were sourcing the basic chemical from a Chinese lab that was one step better than a backyard operation.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to SHV. | June 3, 2022 at 1:42 pm

    Chinese Dijoxin nearly killed my mother in 2008. She was getting a massively high dosage thanks to the pills having the same color code as the proper dosage. That was a world-wide recall.

Ann in L.A. | June 3, 2022 at 4:14 pm

GE also moved its Xray unit from Waukesha, WI (part of Milwaukee) to China about 10 years ago. They also shifted their focus from heavy new research to bolster the high-end, cutting-edge market, to going for lower-tech, less expensive units to market to the developing world.

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