Heparin Shortage – A Worldwide Emergency

Posted on Sep 4, 2019 in Announcements | 0 comments

Heparin Shortage – A Worldwide Emergency

By: Dee Nguyen and Justin Roth

Pharmaceutical researchers are raising concerns that the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic in China has the potential to cause an unprecedented heparin shortage.  ASF is caused by a virus that was first discovered in Kenya in 1921 and first witnessed in China in August 2018.  This disease causes high fever, hemorrhages, ataxia, and severe central nervous system depression in domestic pigs with mortality rates approaching 100%.  Although the virus poses no threats to humans, it is highly contagious and remains without treatment or vaccine.

Derived from porcine intestinal mucosa, heparin is a commonly used anticoagulant in a range of surgeries, procedures, and thromboembolic disease states.  China has approximately 440 million of the world’s 770 million pigs and reportedly already lost about 1/3 or 150 million of its animals.  Without viable pigs, the raw ingredients for heparin cannot be produced.  Some researchers estimate 80% of the raw material for the world’s heparin supply come from China’s pig herd.

Because of the risk to raw materials and history of adulterated Chinese drugs, Congress and various governmental agencies including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are carefully monitoring the situation.  Fresenius Kabi, a leading supplier of heparin, has already put the drug on protective allocation due to shortage of raw material.   Pfizer, another major heparin manufacturer, stated that although they are not sourcing the active pharmaceutical ingredient from China, they are still experiencing intermittent shortages due to manufacturing delays.

While the effects of ASF are beginning to manifest in global supply chains, the impact on local hospital operations remains unclear.  So far, hospital pharmacies have been able to acquire enough heparin to meet demand.  However, this could quickly change.  The shortage is likely to persist for years as the epidemic evolves and Chinese swine populations recover.  For more information about current heparin supply, please reach out to pharmacy leadership.


  1. Higgins, J. China’s African swine fever epidemic could cause global heparin shortage. US News. May 1, 2019. Available at:  <https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/05/01/Chinas-African-swine-fever-epidemic-could-cause-global-heparin-shortage/5881556646708/>.
  2. American Society of Health System Pharmacy: Current Drug Shortages. Available at: < https://www.ashp.org/drug-shortages/current-shortages/Drug-Shortage-Detail.aspx?id=353>.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *