The MGH has activated its Hospital Incident Command System to respond to an impending heparin shortage expected to impact hospitals – including the MGH – across the globe.

Heparin is an anticoagulant used to decrease clotting of the blood in patients being treated for blood vessel, heart and lung conditions. It also is used to prevent clotting during heart surgeries, dialysis and blood transfusions. The shortage is due to an outbreak of African swine fever in China, which has reduced China’s pig population by an estimated 40 percent – with 60 percent supplied to the United States. Heparin is derived from pigs and about 80 percent of crude heparin is produced in China.

“We have been monitoring this situation for several weeks,” says Paul Biddinger, MD, director of the Center for Disaster Medicine. “We anticipate that our supply of all heparin-related products will continue to dwindle in the immediate future. Hospital leaders currently are in the process of reviewing all conservation strategies and possible alternative treatments, while also working with manufacturing companies to examine the full extent of shipping delays and cancellations. Because this is a global shortage, we are not sure how long it will last, but we are actively doing all we can to address the situation.”