Across the U.S., hospitals are facing a serious shortage of important nutrients used for premature infants.
According to an article in Washingtonian Magazine, the nutrient shortage has been going on for three years. There is a record shortage of 300 different drugs that contain the nutrients.
“Children are dying. They’re not getting any calcium or any zinc. Or they’re not getting any phosphorous, and that can lead to heart standstill. I know of a neonate who had seven days without phosphorous, and her little heart stopped," said Steve Plogsted, a pharmacist who chairs the drug-shortage task force of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN).
Michael Cohen, president of the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), added: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career, and I’ve been a pharmacist for 40-some years. This should never be allowed to happen.”
"This is a national emergency, this is a public health crisis and the government isn't doing anything about it," Washingtonian Magazine's Alexandra Robbins told WTOP.
Hospitals are not telling patients because they do not want to cause a panic, but their motives might be financial as well. The U.S. charges the most money for a baby born in first-world countries. Birthing babies is big business in the U.S.
Ironically, these life-saving drugs are showing up among wealthy and famous adults who use them recreationally, for hangovers and to look young.
"You'll hear about this trend called the vitamin drip, where celebrities, models, musicians and athletes are getting IV nutrition delivered intravenously because it's supposed to reenergize them, it's supposed to beautify them," explained Robbins.
"So essentially, premature babies are suffering because they can't get access to the same nutrients that some celebrities are using to pretty-up before a photo shoot."
"[Hospital staff] are heartbroken. They can't believe this is going on, that they can't get access to these very basic nutrients. Really everybody is just astounded that the government has let this go so far," added Robbins.
However, the nutrients are plentiful in South America and Europe.
This summer the U.S. is importing the more of the nutrients from Norway, a country often demonized by the U.S. for its so-called "socialist" health care system.