Did you know that those $1 saline IV bags are the single most-used medicine in the United States? That’s right. Saline is given to an estimated 75 percent of hospital patients and up to 20 million doses are administered per month, according to the FDA. But there’s a problem.
Since the beginning of the year, a saline shortage has quietly affected more than 75 percent of U.S. hospitals. Chances are you hadn’t heard about the problem. But for hospitals, health clinics, dialysis centers and emergency response groups, there have been consistent distribution challenges this year, and these facilities have had to find new ways to keep up with demand. It’s not likely to let up anytime soon, either. Experts recently warned that the shortage will continue into 2015.
What Does the IV Shortage Mean for Patients?
Although medical facilities won’t run out completely, patients will most likely notice the saline squeeze on their medical bills. IV therapy is already an expensive treatment for dehydration. In early 2014, for instance, a Sacramento man’s medical bill went viral, after he was charged $1,678 for IV therapy. And a 2013 New York Times report found that some adult patients were charged up to $600 or more for IV therapy. Due to the shortage, hospitals will likely see an increase in price of 40-50 percent. Now, as flu season approaches and the demand for saline increases, it’s likely that many patients will notice increases in the cost of IV therapy.
Are There Alternatives to IV Therapy?
In response to the shortage, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has recommended that medical facilities “consider using oral hydration whenever possible.” And both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend oral rehydration as the first-course of treatment for dehydration caused by diarrhea.
What is oral rehydration? This treatment has been very successful in the developing world. Patients are given an “oral rehydration solution” that contains a precise amount of electrolytes and helps the body restore lost nutrients. The electrolytes, particularly sodium and glucose, also speed up the absorption of water in the body.
Using ORS in medical settings can help alleviate the saline shortage and the benefits of ORS are clear:
- ORS is extremely effective. One research review that examined the use of ORS in pediatric situations found “no important clinical differences” between ORS and IV therapy. And UNICEF estimates that ORS can treat between 80-90 percent of cases of mild to moderate dehydration caused by diarrhea.
- ORS isn’t invasive. IV therapy requires saline to be delivered directly to the bloodstream via a needle. This is painful for patients and can lead to infection. ORS is administered orally, as soon as symptoms of dehydration arise. It’s not invasive or painful.
- ORS costs much less. One dose of ORS costs about $1, on average, and can be administered at home. Thus, in cases of mild or moderate dehydration, patients could potentially avoid expensive IV therapy.
DripDrop is a doctor-formulated oral rehydration powder that contains a precise ratio of electrolytes. We believe DripDrop can reverse up to 80-90 percent of cases of mild to moderate dehydration. That’s why DripDrop is working to alleviate some of the problems of the saline shortage. Recently, DripDrop partnered with Novation to increase access to our ORS in hospitals across the country.
Hospitals and medical facilities aren’t running out of saline, but they are feeling the squeeze. Experts tend to think that the squeeze will cause the price of saline IVs to go up and this cost will then be passed along to customers.