China’s coronavirus shutdown is delaying US medical scans.


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Doctors in the U.S. are prioritizing only the most critically ill patients, supplying vital drugs to hospitals after China’s coronavirus shutdown temporarily shut down GE Healthcare’s factories, an important source of a key ingredient in medical imaging are distributing.

A Shanghai facility closure in April halted production of a contrast agent, a solution of iodine, which medical staff injects into blood vessels so that devices such as CT scanners and fluoroscopes can see inside the body. Contrast agents, also called dyes, are used almost every hour in hospitals across the United States to measure occlusion of arteries around the heart, to guide stent placement in catheter laboratories, and to help diagnose and treat stroke. Oncologists use a contrast agent to monitor cancerous tumors.

But doctors in many U.S. healthcare systems are on the move as doctors in many U.S. health systems are on the move as control supplies dwindle due to manufacturing shutdowns around the world that are part of China’s stringent COVID-19 policy that keeps workers at home and forces factories to close. They are prioritizing the most serious patients and deferring more routine testing for those who can safely wait for contrast to be replenished.

GE Healthcare told hospital officials this week that the plant has 25 percent capacity and expects to resume normal supply by the end of June. We have moved production to another plant in Ireland and are shipping cargo to the United States to speed up delivery.

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However, it can be difficult to survive the next six to eight weeks with a local health system churning by a sudden supply shortage. Notices of deferrals for non-emergency care are already being sent to patients.

Peter Cohn, a cardiologist at South Coast Health Charlton Memorial Hospital in Paul River, Massachusetts, said he had to postpone 10 to 15 regular heart scans this week. “It’s a crisis I’ve never experienced as a clinician, and I’ve never had to deal with in my entire career,” he said.

Charleton Memorial, a regional heart treatment center, handles referrals for the area between Rhode Island and Cape Cod. Cardiologists are prioritizing a heart attack by asking patients with mild chest pain or other signs of non-emergency problems to wait, Cohn said. He said patients are understanding during the pandemic.

“It’s completely out of our hands,” Cohn said. “It’s not something we can control.”

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The University of California San Francisco Medical Center has also postponed some non-emergency cases, which are less than 5% of their so far scheduled appointments. They are also starting to ask their patients to rate them urgently or low-priority to doctors who order CT scans. The 782-bed institution not only serves San Francisco, but also draws patients for advanced care in California and around the world. The device injects a contrast agent into the patient for all conditions about 150 times a day, said Christopher Hess, professor and chair of the Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Department at the Medical Center.

“It is absolutely necessary for patient care. Many treatment decisions rely on imaging,” Hes said. “When the imaging service sneezes, the whole health care system gets the flu.”

Hess, attending a radiology conference in London this week, told his European colleagues that his systems depend less on GE products and that widespread disruption is not expected as in the United States.

The Greater New York Hospital Association posted a notice to members on May 8 that GE’s supply of contrast medium would decrease by 80% over six to eight weeks, but GE Healthcare has not confirmed the figure, and the median reported rate cuts were not met by the Greater New York Hospital Association. It wasn’t accurate.

The turmoil that has begun to unfold over the past two weeks is yet another indication of how vulnerable overseas poorly diversified supply chains are to the global health crisis. The shortage has continued to undermine the American health care system over the past two years.

Healthcare workers have struggled with a shortage of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment, respirators, sedatives and other medications. Lack of raw materials and manufacturing equipment has hampered vaccine production. Meanwhile, hospitals have temporarily suspended selective procedures, such as knee replacements, to respond to a staff shortage that must first limit infection and later close beds.

Contrast supply crisis brings a reversal. It’s not because of the surge in demand caused by the coronavirus. This time, a non-coronavirus outbreak has occurred worldwide and is being impacted.

“It is not a matter of supply and demand. It is a situation beyond our control. Soumi Saha, vice president of advocacy at Premier, a large medical group purchasing agent, said, “This further highlights the vulnerabilities of the supply chain. Weeks of manufacturing disruptions lead to months of patient outages.” said.

GE Healthcare sales are approx. one third According to the doctors interviewed by the Washington Post, the share of the global market for contrast agents is much larger in the United States. The company does not disclose information about its market share publicly.

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Millions of patients worldwide could experience tests postponed to next month due to a lack of testing, said Matt Davenport, professor and vice chair of radiology at the University of Michigan. He said about 50 million scans a week, or nearly 1 million scans a week, using contrast agents, are performed annually in the United States alone.

In addition to relying on a limited number of overseas factories, hospitals negotiate discounts by promising to purchase virtually all of their supplies from a single supplier.

“It’s a matter of having all the eggs in one basket, where the supply chain is centralized in one city and one country, and the healthcare system gets involved in a preferred supplier contract,” Davenport said. “This means that most of the contrasts they have available come from a single vendor. When that supplier is not available, they have nowhere to go for that comparison.”

Hospital pharmacists who depend on GE Healthcare contrast media are working over the phone and scrambling for supplies. Other global health care companies manufacture contrast agents such as Bracco, Bayer, and Guerbet, but they are making sure existing hospital contracts are being fulfilled and there are no large amounts of spares. Meanwhile, Davenport said doctors “have to make difficult decisions about what to put off.”

GE Healthcare notified hospitals of the expected shortage in a letter on April 19th. The letter states that “supply is expected to ease by June 2022.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that two of the brand-name contrast agents, Omnipaque and Visipaque, are lacking.

GE Healthcare chief executive Marco Campione, head of pharmaceutical diagnostics, told hospital officials in a conference call hosted by Premier on Tuesday that the Shanghai facility has returned to 25% capacity as of this week. There were 700 participants on the call.

GE Healthcare said this week it has started sending vial cases to the US via air freight for expedited shipping, in response to a question that it is moving more production to its Cork, Ireland plant. Shanghai expects utilization to reach 50% by the end of this week.

“After having to close our Shanghai manufacturing facility for several weeks due to local coronavirus policies, we have been able to reopen and utilize other global factories wherever we can. We are working to return to full capacity as soon as local authorities allow,” the company said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. The scale and speed of the Shanghai blockade were unprecedented.

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