PUYALLUP, Wash. (KOMO) - They’re used in hospitals all over the country, but a national saline bag shortage is hitting home.
The FDA said saline bags had been in short supply since 2014, but supplies plummeted even further after this year's devastating hurricane season.
Doctors and nurses at the Partner Oncology Clinic said supplies are now dangerously low and they could run out of saline bags in two days.
They’ve been calling and emailing companies all over the world trying to get more saline with no luck.
People who need it most are worried.
It’s tough enough 68-year-old Gail Miller is fighting her second round of metastatic breast cancer. Now, she’s facing another battle in her treatment: she can’t get her hydration fluids.
Doctors said the national saline bag shortage became worse after Hurricane Maria slammed the production factory in Puerto Rico.
“It’s scary and frustrating,” said Miller. “I’m trying to take one step forward, and not two steps back.”
Nurses at her oncology clinic, Partner Oncology, said for the past two weeks they haven't been able to do hydration treatments and they’ve had to send patients to bigger hospitals.
Now, they’re saving the few bags they have left to dilute powerful chemo drugs for patients.
“People are going to die if we don’t get saline,” said Emily Lanum with Partner Oncology. “At this point, we have just enough for chemo and it’s not going to last us very long and we’re trying to decide who (we) can treat and who we can’t and that’s not a choice that has to be made.”
Nurses said they found a company in Canada selling the saline at nearly five times the price.
“It’s just not been good,” said Miller. “I feel bad for myself, I feel bad for everyone. Because there are people who are much sicker than I am and they really rely on that.”
The FDA said it’s responding to the shortage by temporarily allowing saline imports from Australia and Ireland.