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IV Illness Outbreak May Be Linked to Saline Shortage


January 16, 2015 — A chronic shortage of medical-grade saline for intravenous (IV) therapy may have contributed to at least 17 serious injuries and one death linked to unsterile IV training fluid that was mistakenly given to 40 people.

The patients were given Wallcur’s simulated IV saline solution, Practi-0.9%, which is only intended for training purposes on a dummy. The bag looks like normal IV saline solution, but instead of salt water, it contains non-sterile distilled water.

The New York Times cited Dr. Alexander J. Kallen, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who said one unnamed distributor shipped hundreds of bags of the fluid to about 50 clinics.

It was not clear whether the distributor was to blame or whether the clinics mistakenly ordered the wrong product. One hospice patient died after receiving the fluid, but it is not clear if the death was caused by the saline solution.

Forbes commented on the outbreak in light of a chronic shortage of saline solution in the United States.

The shortage has contributed to a “Monty Python” situation in which bags of saline (salt water) are now being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean from drug-makers in Europe.

The United States has the highest per-capita health costs of any nation. Hospira, one of the biggest companies that makes IV products, recently announced they will be shuttering a production plant in North Carolina any laying off 250 workers, which certainly won’t help supply issues.

People in at least seven states have been injured by the product in seven states, including North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, New York, and Colorado. Many of them almost immediately developed fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, tremors, or had to be hospitalized.

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