Nationwide IV shortage hampering Grand Strand cancer facility

Mary Macsay of Myrtle Beach has esophageal cancer, making it nearly impossible for her to swallow.

"At first I was able to eat solids and now I can't at all and even the fluids now, I'm having trouble getting down," Macsay said.

Nutrients from an intravenous drip are helping to keep Macsay alive.

But at Coastal Cancer Center in Myrtle Beach, where she's being treated, those IV bags are hard to get these days, because of a shortage of intravenous fluids that's causing problems for hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The nursing supervisor at CCC says she and her nurses are lately spending too much of their time on the phone to suppliers, begging for more IV bags.

"You're told, we don't have the fluids to ship to you, or we're on an allotment, they're on back order, but when they do come in, we can send you two cases. Well, we can go through two cases of fluid in a day at one location," said Michelle Reeves, RN, OCN.

The shortage got so bad, the facility's CEO sent letters to President Obama and members of Congress, asking for their help.

"To make sure that they understood what a problem it was for community cancer centers, because if they didn't know of the problem, they couldn't help with the problem," said Alice Canterbury.

NewsChannel 15 contacted all three IV manufacturers: Baxter, B.Braun and Hospira.

Baxter emailed a statement that said the IV shortage is "due to increased demand and decreased availability of such products from other suppliers." It went on to say Baxter is "making every effort to meet the needs of... customers."

B.Braun released a statement that said the shortage is due "in part to an exacerbated flu season."

Canterbury says a flu epidemic is one reason IV makers gave her for the backlog. One of them also blamed the FDA, she says, and one supplier told her if Coastal Cancer Center committed to buy enough other products from the company, they could get the IV fluids they needed.

"I honestly think it's about money and profits," Canterbury said.

The Food and Drug Administration says it expects the shortage to ease in March.

Representatives from Grand Strand Regional Medical Center and Conway Medical Center told us they're aware of the shortages, but so far, not affected by them.