The Problem with Propofol


Demand for propofol—the ubiquitous intravenous anesthetic—has skyrocketed since the drug became key to ventilating ICU patients with COVID-19.

But hospitals have seen stressful shortages.


An investigation tracking propofol’s notoriously opaque journey from production to patient care underscores the vulnerabilities of a supply chain that relies on a few countries for production—and now faces a global crisis.

A more resilient supply—as with gasoline—is needed, says Ronald Piervincenzi of US Pharmacopeia. "They don't have ‘just in time’ delivery all along [the supply chain], they have big tanks full of gas, they sit around, they wait until the station needs it. It's built into your price."