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The hyaluronidases (EC are a family of enzymes that degrade hyaluronic acid.

The enzyme increases tissue permeability, and consequently is used in conjunction with other drugs, to speed their dispersion and delivery. The most common example is opthalmic surgery, where it is used in combination with local anesthetics.

Some bacteria produce hyaluronidase.

In human fertilization, hyaluronidase is released by the acrosome of the sperm cell after it has reached the oocyte. Hyaluronidase aids in digesting proteins in the zona pellucida, thus enabling conception.

Brand names include Vitrase® (ISTA Pharmaceuticals) and Wydase®.


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Hospitals hit by drug shortages
From Spokesman Review, The (Spokane), 2/25/01 by Lauran Neergaard Associated Press Staff reporter Wendy Harris

Hospitals nationwide are rationing adult tetanus shots, reserving them for burn victims and other severely injured patients, because of a huge shortage of the crucial vaccine.

It's one of the worst drug shortages facing hospitals in years - and don't expect it to be the last. Shortages of medications that hospitals use every day are occurring with more frequency, and worse, they more often involve products with few good alternatives.

While experts can't point to a shortage that has cost a life, it's a possibility that haunts doctors and pharmacists struggling to cope.

"It's really hard to talk about rationing care," said Linda Tyler, pharmacy manager at the University of Utah Hospital.

The hospital hasn't offered adult tetanus booster shots since fall, reserving scarce doses for high-risk patients with burns, infected wounds or other severe trauma.

"We use it til it's gone, and when it's gone, it's gone," she said.

So far the tetanus crisis concerns only adult versions of tetanus vaccine, not the children's vaccine. But Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts are watching closely to see if the shortage spreads - and worrying about adult illnesses this spring, when vaccine demand rises along with a seasonal jump in injuries.

The Washington state Department of Health is responding to the shortage by limiting the supply of children's tetanus shots for local health departments to a 30-day supply. Usually, local health departments keep a three-month supply on hand, state Health Department spokeswoman Cindy Gleason said.

"We anticipate having enough vaccine for everyone, we just have to limit the supply to 30 days," Gleason said.

At Spokane's Sacred Heart Medical Center, doctors and nurses are holding off on giving patients tetanus booster shots if they've had one within 10 years, said Kathy Caldero, Sacred Heart's infection control coordinator. Previously, a patient with a small wound, for example, would receive a tetanus shot as a precautionary measure if it had been more than five years since the patient's last booster.

"Now we wait for the full 10 years," Caldero said.

Supplies already were tight because of production difficulties when Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories last month stunned hospitals by suddenly ceasing to make the vaccine altogether, calling it "a business decision."

The CDC praises the sole remaining manufacturer - Aventis Pasteur - for working around the clock to brew more of the millions of doses needed annually. But each batch takes 11 months to make, so relief isn't expected before year's end.

It's not the only shortage. Abbott Laboratories has run out of lifesaving intravenous Isuprel, kept on hospital "crash carts" to revive cardiac arrest victims, because of a problem with its ingredient supplier. Doctors are using workable but somewhat less desirable alternatives.

Eye surgeons are stretching final supplies of Wydase, important in numbing eyes for cataract and other surgeries after Wyeth abruptly quit making it, too.

Also in short supply is the powerful painkiller fentanyl and Narcan, used to reverse morphine overdoses.

"We call and beg and plead" for doses, said Carla Gill, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital pharmacy. "We get dribs and drabs of what we've ordered," and pharmacists then furiously work to stretch supplies and find alternatives.

Nobody keeps good statistics, but the nation's largest hospitals and the Food and Drug Administration agree shortages - lasting from weeks to months at a time - are increasing from a few critical drugs a year to about a dozen.

Why? Sometimes a company's ingredient supplier quits making a key ingredient, or demand temporarily spikes.

Sometimes the FDA discovers health-threatening violations in a factory and temporarily halts production - partly to blame for last fall's flu vaccine shortage.

Some manufacturers decide a product is not profitable enough. With increasing drug company mergers, there are fewer competitors making the same medicines anymore and thus fewer that can quickly pick up the slack.

Companies are notoriously tight-lipped in explaining shortages. Take Wyeth, which cites only "manufacturing-related issues" in killing Wydase, made in a factory FDA had cited for repeated violations.

Shortages encourage price-gouging, sometimes doubling, said Gill who, a day after the Wydase announcement, got a call from a distributor with a stockpile looking to make a deal.

Hospitals are feeling shortages sooner than ever before because, faced with steep medication costs, most now keep only a few days' supply in inventory.

The FDA and CDC are studying which critical drugs are most at risk for shortages, and FDA officials are trying to ease the situation by finding overseas ingredient suppliers or encouraging small drug companies to make a larger competitor's castoff.

What's next? Tyler is warily watch ing whether a medicine crucial for heart surgery that's now on backorder will turn into a real shortage. "It's put us in a panic. ... If we're unable to get protamine, we'll have to think about canceling surgeries that aren't emergencies," she said.

Copyright 2001 Cowles Publishing Company
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

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