Pfizer halts sales of injectable opioids to veterinarians as shortages persist  

Dogs, cats and other animals are now feeling the pain of Pfizer’s manufacturing problems that have contributed to a nationwide shortage of injectable opioids. The drugmaker has halted sales of the painkillers to veterinarians until sometime next year.

Pfizer suspended sales of the drugs to the veterinary market last quarter, diverting those drugs to fill orders from hospitals. It said it won’t resume sales for animal use until the shortage at hospitals and surgical facilities has been resolved, which is not expected before the second quarter of 2019.

"We value all customers and understand the importance of these medications and regret the current need to prioritize shipments to hospital and surgical Trading Partners," Pfizer spokesman Steven Danehy said today in an email. "Pfizer is making every effort to restock the market and provide product in a manner that is equitable, efficient, and compliant."

Pfizer has restarted production of its Carpuject prefilled syringes and recently released about 50 lots that had been on hold. The first shipments began reaching wholesalers last month. "While production on opioid products has restarted, we will not fully recover until Q2 2019. We don’t plan to send product to veterinarians until we fully recover," Danehy said.

The shortage of these hospital-administered pain medications, including morphine and fentanyl, started a year ago when Pfizer reduced output of prefilled syringes as part of an upgrade at its troubled sterile drug manufacturing site in McPherson, Kansas. Last fall, Pfizer told customers that because upgrades were taking longer than expected, "full recovery dates of prioritized prefilled syringes” had moved to the first quarter of 2019 and deprioritized syringes to the second quarter of 2019.  

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The situation was complicated further when the DEA, which controls narcotics quotas, gave some of Pfizer’s narcotics quota to competitors because of ongoing problems that have left hospitals scrambling and Pfizer unable to meet demand.

On top of that, the problem worsened when the contractor that makes a key component of the Carpuject and iSecure injectors Pfizer uses with those drugs ran into its own production issue. To ensure safety, Pfizer said it had to put a quality hold on the injectors, again interrupting production.

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The situation has left veterinarians, who have come to rely on the painkillers for everything from spays and neuters to amputations, at the back of the line.

"It's changing how we manage our patients from a pain perspective, and not always for the better," Ashley Wiese, D.V.M., the regional medical director for MedVet Medical and Cancer Centers for Pets, recently told JAVMA News.