FDA, Pfizer Work to Alleviate Shortage of Injectable Opioids

December 18, 2018
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Since August, Pfizer had suspended the sale and delivery of injectable opioids to veterinary customers.

The FDA and Pfizer Inc. are working to help alleviate a shortage of certain injectable opioids available to treat pain in animals by facilitating the availability of a limited amount of product labeled for human use.

According to the agency’s news release, in September the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) became aware that the opioids used by many veterinarians for pain control in their patients were no longer available through their standard distribution channels. This was due to Pfizer’s decision to restrict distribution of such products for human use only during an ongoing shortage.

After learning of the suspension of drugs for veterinary purposes, the CVM met with Pfizer to raise awareness about the veterinary community’s need for injectable opioids and to discuss how a limited supply of product imported from other countries could be made available for use in the United States.

“FDA is aware that the opioid shortage has been acutely felt in the veterinary community, just as it has in hospitals and health care settings providing critical care and pain management in human medicine,” the agency wrote in an open letter to veterinarians.

The FDA had already given Pfizer permission to import Hydromorphone Hydrochloride Injection, USP, in 2 mg/mL strength, 1 mL volume ampules from Canada to help alleviate the ongoing opioid shortage in human medicine. Now, however, this product is also available in limited quantities for pain management in animals. Additionally, Pfizer also has made vials and ampules of Morphine Sulfate Injection, USP available to the US veterinary market. Although these products are currently in short supply, they will continue to be available to veterinary professionals when supply increases.

Veterinarians can purchase the products through their normal distribution chains, which have already been alerted that they are now available in limited supply for the veterinary market. Pfizer expects the opioid shortage to end in early 2019, and the company will continue to make these products available to the veterinary market in the interim.

“By making these products available for veterinary use, Pfizer is helping to ensure that veterinarians have a more complete formulary of products to manage pain in their animal patients, to assist in their recovery and to minimize suffering,” the FDA explained.