Both children have short bowel syndrome and can't absorb full-size proteins. The rare condition affects about 25 out of every 100,000 infants.
Two children in Tennessee were reportedly hospitalized because their families could not find the specialty formula they need during the ongoing nationwide formula shortage.
A doctor at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis told CNN he hospitalized a toddler and a preschooler who hasn't been able to tolerate any alternatives to the specific formula they require. While the toddler—who was in the hospital for about a week—was discharged Tuesday, the preschooler who was admitted in April remains in the hospital, said a hospital spokesperson.
"It's been a crisis since February of shifting and trying to sift through and figure something else to work," said Dr. Mark Corkins, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the hospital who is treating the patients.
Two children in Tennessee were recently hospitalized because their families could not find the specific formula they need during a shortage that has grown more acute over the past month, sending parents frantically searching for interim solutions. https://t.co/OoAXajZFwv— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 17, 2022
Both children have short bowel syndrome and can't absorb full-size proteins. The rare condition affects about 25 out of every 100,000 infants. They rely on a formula made of amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—which don't have to be digested but can just be absorbed by the gut. About 80% of the specialty formula they need, a brand called EleCare, was produced by formula maker Abbott. When the company's Sturgis, Michigan, production plant shut down in February, patients who were using EleCare were switched to alternate formulas made by smaller suppliers. However, according to Corkins, now those stocks have also run out.
Two children have been hospitalized in Tennessee after their parents could not find a specific type of formula amid a nationwide shortage. https://t.co/W88AwbQvfg— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) May 18, 2022
The doctor revealed that although they tried feeding the kids other kinds of formulas—made with chopped-up proteins—it didn't work. The children couldn't tolerate them and became dehydrated. "In the hospital, we give them IV fluids, and the other thing we give them is IV nutrition. That's not ideal," Corkins said. He explained that doctors want to feed these children by mouth so they can use their gut since the more they use their gut, the more it develops. According to Corkins, both children could have stayed home, if it weren't for their special nutritional needs. They were hospitalized so they could be fed.
HEARTBREAKING: “Two children were hospitalized for intestinal illnesses after their parents could not find the formula they needed.” pic.twitter.com/MBbK5PPop1— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 18, 2022
Abbott Nutrition closed its plant in Sturgis and voluntarily recalled some of its products in February after at least four babies who consumed them were hospitalized with a rare but serious bacterial infection. The company this week reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration to resume production in the plant. In a statement released Monday, Abbott said that following FDA approval, production at the facility could restart within two weeks and that it would take another six to eight weeks before formula from the plant would be available on grocery shelves.
A doctor at a children's hospital says he admitted two young patients -- a toddler and a preschooler -- because the specialty formula they need is out of stock and they haven't been able to tolerate any replacements. https://t.co/VATs0BLD48— CNN (@CNN) May 18, 2022
Speaking to The New York Times, Corkin called the ongoing nationwide formula shortage the worst crisis he had experienced in his medical career. He revealed that there has recently been an increase in calls from families whose children have disabilities or medical conditions that require them to be on specific formulas. Corkins explained that short-term risks of not being able to get proper nutrients included elevated levels of potassium and salt in the blood, which can cause heart or kidney complications. He is also worried about the long-term impact on growth and brain development.
Two children were hospitalized this month due to the nationwide baby formula shortage. Officials say both children had “specific dietary requirements.”https://t.co/M5Rk6zSBBv— WAVY TV 10 (@WAVY_News) May 18, 2022
"Even if they're not stooling out and getting dehydrated and having trouble with fluids, I worry if they're getting enough nutrition that they're going to grow like they should," he said. Corkins urges families who are unable to find formula to reach out to their pediatricians and closely monitor their children’s health. For now, he added, hospitals nationwide will most likely need to take stopgap measures that will not be ideal for children. "There's enough of these kids out there that we're not alone," he said. "We're going to stumble along until the formula's back."
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Cavan Images