What Should We Learn from the Contrast Media Shortage?

Has your department been affected by the contrast media shortage? Several months ago, one of the factories making iodinated contrast media was shut down in China to control a COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, other pharmaceutical companies were not able to produce more contrast media to make up for the loss, leading to a shortage. 

While this shortage has left many facilities scrambling, this is not the first-time radiology has experienced a shortage. However, this begs the question: if we have already experienced a shortage, why weren’t we more prepared for this one? 

Most radiology departments operate on a just-in-time strategy. Essentially, this means departments order supplies as needed, which saves facilities money. Unfortunately, this strategy only works when production is normal. In times of shortages, this can leave departments fumbling.  

But what can departments do instead? Departments are recommended to keep at least six months’ worth of supplies on hand. This, of course, does not apply to items with a short shelf-life or a use-by-date. Having six months of supplies will allow your department to continue operating normally whenever there’s an issue with production. If a facility shuts down, or if there’s a strike, the six-month supply will tide you over until the issue is resolved. Using a just-in-case strategy instead of the just-in-time one will cost facilities more, but it will solve the problem when the time comes 

Additionally, healthcare facilities should utilize a variety of manufacturers for their items. If a manufacturer shuts down, having a backup will ensure there are no shortages or scrambling when the time comes. Minimize the risk of another shortage by being proactive.  

Another approach you can take is to contact your manufacturer directly. Do they have a stockpile of material? How long will it take them to give you a replacement if you need it? You don’t want to have to wait months to get a part in because this could render a machine unusable, which will affect how many patients you can see. 

There is no guarantee that another shortage will not happen. We have been shown that there are issues with our supply chain. What will your department do to ensure it does not affect you again? 


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