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Hospitals scramble as they try to cope without a simple pantry drug- baking soda

Dr. Tracy Fech looks at Kristie Griffin's feet while examining her to see if she's eligible to participate in a study on a new drug to treat scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, at University Hospital in Salt lake City on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — Frustration in hospitals across the nation as a drug shortage forces doctors to make due without baking soda.

Erin Fox, the director of drug information at the University of Utah, says baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is used in a lot of common treatments but it’s most essential in treating some drug overdoses and helping quell the effects of high-dose chemotherapy.

So, the obvious question, why not just stock up from the nearest grocery store?

“Most drug shortages are caused by quality or manufacturing problems at the factory.” Fox explained.

She says factories have to go through a delicate process to make sure the drug is sanitary and safe enough to be injected straight into patients veins. Grocery store baking soda doesn’t make the cut. The story is sometimes also true for the medical factories, leading to the shortages hitting hospitals nationwide right now.

While it is common to see shortages in simple drugs like baking soda or saline, Fox says they never have the problem with more expensive drugs.

“Those companies have just one dedicated line for that product,” Fox explained,
“and they almost always have a back up plan.”

She says they’re trying to figure out how to encourage all drug manufacturers to make the same precautions, but for now they just have to cope until the factories can catch up.

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