EMS paramedics have expressed their frustration with staffing shortages and old ambulances breaking down. 

Now KHON2 has learned that they’re also short on certain medications. So they’re told to use drugs that have expired by up to a year.

Experts say it’s troubling because expired medications can lose their effectiveness. And they could also expose the city, meaning taxpayers, to possible lawsuits.

Paramedics sent KHON2 a copy of a memo sent out earlier this month saying, “Due to a nationwide shortage, the soonest we expect to be able to fill orders for Diazepam,  will be late 2020.” So they’ve “authorized the use of expired Diazepam up to one year past the expiration date.” 

Dr. Bob Ruggieri of Island Urgent Care says certain medications like valium have side effects which may react negatively after the expiration date.

“The desired effect of the valium may have worn off somewhat it still might have some sedative effects that might last til tomorrow or the next day,” he said.

Dr. Ruggieri adds that hospitals and clinics would never use medication once it has reached the expiration date. Other doctors point out that using them could lead to a lawsuit.

“Let’s say for example we give them an expired vaccine and then they did catch hepatitis on their travels a year later and they find out we gave them an expired vaccine. Certainly they could sue us because they weren’t as protected as if they had a non-expired vaccine,” said Dr. Ruggieri.

Paramedics say there are actually at least four medications being used that are expired. But a spokeswoman for EMS says only valium has been authorized for use past the expiration date.

She adds in a statement that, “Studies have shown that the medication is still 99.99% of full strength and there is no evidence to support that these medications are harmful in any way.”

As for the possibility of a lawsuit, she says, “We minimized the city’s liability by obtaining alternatives when available… doing so in a manner consistent with the recommendations of state and federal agencies.”

EMS adds that “There would be greater liability if we did not take these type of reasonable steps to ensure we are able to provide these lifesaving medications when needed.”