Drug shortage hurts Horry County paramedics

Emergency responders across the country and in Horry County have reported they're struggling to deal with a shortage of drug supplies created by manufacturing delays and industry changes.

A report out of Salem, Oregon showed some paramedics are injecting expired medications, despite a risk they won't work as intended. Others are scrambling to train paramedics to use alternative medications. In some cases, ambulance crews have simply gone without drugs they can't buy. One Central Oregon fire department reported using expired supplies of 11 medications at the peak of the crisis earlier this year. Another in Arizona went three weeks without any drugs to treat seizures.

In Horry County, paramedics have had to struggle with ordering different concentrations of medications to cope with the shortage of others. They have also had to shuffle resources of drugs from ambulances in rural areas to more populated ones. Other drugs, on a backlog list, now require a phone call of approval from a doctor before they can administer the medicine to a patient in the field.

"This is just one more thing that makes and already stressful job a little more stressful." HCFR Asst. Chief Justin Gibbins says.

More than 200 drugs are on the FDA's shortage list.

The drug industry and the FDA say they're working on solutions. Oregon has joined three states with easing restrictions on the use of expired drugs. Expired drugs are illegal to administer in South Carolina.

"Horry County Fire Rescue is not going to administer any expired medicine," Gibbins said.

The AP contributed to this report.