NEW YORK — The fear started when a few patients saw their nurses and dietitians posting job searches on LinkedIn.
Word spread to Facebook groups, and patients started calling Coram CVS, a major U.S. supplier of the compounded IV nutrients on which they rely for survival. To their dismay, CVS Health confirmed the rumors on June 1: It was closing 36 of the 71 branches of its Coram home infusion business and laying off about 2,000 nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and other employees.
Many of the patients left in the lurch have life-threatening digestive disorders that render them unable to eat or drink. They depend on parenteral nutrition, or PN — in which amino acids, sugars, fats, vitamins, and electrolytes are pumped, in most cases, through a specialized catheter directly into a large vein near the heart.
The day after CVS’ move, another big supplier, Optum Rx, announced its own consolidation. Suddenly, thousands would be without their highly complex, shortage-plagued, essential drugs and nutrients.
“With this kind of disruption, patients can’t get through on the phones. They panic,” said Cynthia Reddick, a senior nutritionist who was let go in the CVS restructuring.
“It was very difficult. Many emails, many phone calls, acting as a liaison between my doctor and the company,” said Elizabeth Fisher Smith, a 32-year-o …