“It’s pretty scary”: Ongoing respiratory illness surge creates medication shortage

A Lincoln mother discusses her experience with medication shortages amid an increase in respiratory illnesses.
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 7:56 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s being called a tripledemic: the flu, COVID, and RSV, and people are taking different medicines to help with their symptoms.

But some need these drugs year-round.

The sound of tiny, labored breaths and various alarms on equipment is a constant for Lincoln mom of three Samantha Eddins.

Her two newest twins Genevive and Lucas have trachs in their throats and are on ventilators full-time after being born several months premature, and spending just shy of 300 days in the NICU.

They will likely need that breathing assistance for life, along with prescription medication that lately has been hard to find.

“It’s pretty scary, not gonna lie,” Eddins said.

Every day Eddins gives four doses of Albuterol to the twins, two for each. It opens their airways to assist with breathing but over the weekend and Monday, her pharmacy had to make multiple calls to even track some down. Finally finding what she needed at two different Hy-Vees in Lincoln.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen when we get through these last two boxes,” Eddins said.

Here’s why parents like Eddins are running into such a shortage. Albuterol can also be used to treat general respiratory problems and people are seeking it out during this ongoing sick season. Right now, it’s listed among other drugs on the FDA’s website, as being in “short supply”.

More: ‘Significant increase’ in Lancaster County flu cases

“If this course continues to run as busy as it is, it could be for example Tamiflu,” said Dr. Cary Ward, with CHI Health. “A very commonly used drug for influenza. We could be short on that down the road if we keep having the numbers were having.”

As for Eddins, she said it’s not just the shortage she’s worried about, it’s also the high number of respiratory illnesses.

“I don’t go anywhere,” Eddins said. “Literally the only places I go in this last couple of months are doctors’ appointments. Like I don’t take them anywhere unnecessarily.”

Eddins said it’s not just the sick season surge, ongoing supply chain issues are also impacting her getting needed medical items for the twins including seizure medicine, and replacement trachs in certain sizes are all on back order.