Hurricane Maria

Urgently Needed Hemophilia Treatment Drugs Delivered to Puerto Rico Pediatric Hospital

Hemophilia treatment medicines are transported into the emergency room at University Pediatric Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday. (Damon Taugher/Direct Relief)
Hemophilia treatment medicines are transported into the emergency room at University Pediatric Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday. (Damon Taugher/Direct Relief)

A shipment of life-saving medicine for children with hemophilia was delivered to a Puerto Rico hospital on Thursday, just hours before the hospital anticipated running out.

Direct Relief staff brought doses of Factor VIII and IX, drugs that aid clotting in people with hemophilia.

At the time of the delivery, staff at the University Pediatric Hospital in San Juan estimated they had between 24 and 72 hours until their supply of the drug was depleted entirely.

Direct Relief U.S. Programs Director Damon Taugher works with hospital staff Thursday during the delivery in San Juan. (Gordon Willcock/Direct Relief)

The drug relies on a temperature-controlled supply chain, meaning it must be kept at a specific temperature throughout transport.

Because of widespread blackouts in Puerto Rico, many hospitals are relying on fuel-run generators to power refrigerators for temperature-sensitive medicines and vaccines.  The University Pediatric Hospital is no exception but was able to accept the drug and keep it cool so it can be administered to patients in need.

After Hurricane Maria, “the University Pediatric Hospital suffered major losses,” according to an email from hospital staff to Direct Relief. The facility is a large tertiary hospital, meaning it functions as a referral center not only for the entire island of Puerto Rico but all of the Caribbean and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The hospital also runs the only pediatric hemophilia program on the island.

The medicines are delivered to hospital staff Thursday. (Gordon Willcock/Direct Relief)

The urgent need for medicines called for a quick turnaround time. The doses were shipped to Direct Relief on Wednesday from Bioverativ, which donated the drug. The doses were then shipped overnight via FedEx on Wednesday, arriving in Puerto Rico Thursday.

“This donation was extremely important, as our supplies were already low before the hurricane hit and have become critically low,” Dr. Enid Rivera, a pediatric hematologist at the hospital, told Direct Relief.

Rivera said that hospital staff were treating a young patient with hemophilia and renal bleeding before the donation arrived, and running out of the medicines could have put the child’s life in danger.

Direct Relief Emergency Response Manager Gordon Willcock delivers Emergency Health Kits to the Puerto Rico Department of Health Thursday. (Damon Taugher/Direct Relief)

In addition to hemophilia medicines, Direct Relief delivered two Emergency Health Kits Thursday to the Puerto Rico Department of Health, each of which contains enough essential medicines to treat 100 patients for 3 to 5 days.

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