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Hospitals are running out of painkillers

Hospitals are running low on painkillers, and it's affecting how medical professionals treat patients.

Manufacturing shortages of injectable opioids have been pushing medical facilities to ration their stockpiles, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. There's been a shortage since last year, but the American Medical Association recently elevated the urgency, calling it a public health crisis.

Health-care professionals have reportedly been forced to save their injected opioids for the most serious cases, offering other patients less effective painkillers that AP reports could have more side effects or fail to properly control pain. The shortage began when a Pfizer manufacturing factory cut production after the Food and Drug Administration found serious issues, and is expected to last until next year, making it a more serious instance than previous opioid shortages.

"It's definitely the most severe I've seen in tracking drug shortages for 17 years," a Utah pharmacist who tracks medicine shortages said. An April survey found that 98 percent of hospital pharmacists were facing moderate to severe shortages of morphine, fentanyl, and hydromorphone. Using alternatives or generic versions of injected drugs can have deadly consequences, experts say.

"Having to choose between underdosing the patient or not having a medication to treat another patient later that day is incredibly frustrating," said a Massachusetts emergency department doctor. The FDA is reportedly trying to expedite the approval process to produce more opioids. Read more at The Associated Press.