Eyewitness News recently got calls and e-mails from some concerned hospital patients wanting to know if they were getting the right pain medication alternative, since morphine is in short supply.
When a recent hospital patient was at Tulane Medical Center last week, he was told there was no morphine for pain.
“When you go into the emergency room and they treating you, they automatically saying they don’t have morphine and they’re giving you Narcan with the Fentanyl,” said the man who did not want to give his name on camera.
He got concerned when he heard the word Fentanyl.
“It concerns me when it’s popping on the television every time about being used on Fentanyl. They got more people dropping and hitting the ground using Fentanyl then they have doing heroin,” he said.
Another person, who didn’t want to go on camera, called to say a relative was at Ochsner Hospital and was also told they were out of Morphine, and were going to use Fentanyl.
Doctors explain that there is a morphine shortage, locally and nationwide, partially because of changes in the pharma industry and because the hurricane in Puerto Rico knocked out production at factories that make needed drugs, medical devices and supplies. But the medical director of University Medical Center says patients should not be concerned.
“Fentanyl is used in all areas of the hospital. It’s used for brief procedures. It’s used in the emergency department, and it’s used in the operating room as well,” explained Dr. Peter DeBlieux, The Medical Director of UMC and an Emergency Medicine Specialist at LSU Health Sciences Center.
Fentanyl, Dilaudid and Morphine are all opioids used to treat pain. The Fentanyl is used even when there is no morphine shortage, such as when a patient is allergic to it. It comes from a reputable manufacturer, the dose in a hospital is closely monitored, and the patient is under supervision. It is not at all like the unknown content on the streets that is mixed with heroin and abused causing deaths.
“The safety profile for Fentanyl is no different than it is for morphine, is no different than it is for Dilaudid ,” said Dr. DeBlieux.
“They saying they can’t get it (Morphine) from the manufacturer for another 30 days,” the recent patient said he was told at the hospital.
Patients should be reassured the shortage will not change their treatment. Doctors say the pain medications can be administered as a pill, IV drip, or injection.
Tulane Medical Center gave the following statement about how they are handling the national morphine shortage: