Although the shortage of amoxicillin, especially in its liquid and chewable forms, has proven frustrating for pharmacists, doctors and parents whose children have grown accustomed to the chewing gum and strawberry flavored varieties, experts say there’s no reason to panic: Stocks of effective alternatives like cephalexin and clindamycin remain plentiful, FDA says
But the process of finding a suitable alternative delays care and can be frustrating. “Caring for a sick child is stressful enough, and now you have to find an extra prescription. But there are alternatives available that are age- and indication-appropriate,” said Dr. Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
While hundreds of drugs, including chemotherapy and anesthetic agents, have been in short supply for years, the current shortages of amoxicillin and antivirals are unusual, Dr. Ganio said. He attributed the spike in demand to the early surge in respiratory disease this year.
“These are not your typical drug shortages, which are associated with manufacturing or supply chain disruptions,” he said. While most drug makers prepare for seasonal variations, he said, “We don’t use much Tamiflu in the northern hemisphere in the summer, and manufacturers plan accordingly. It hit earlier than expected.
The FDA, which tracks drug shortages on its website, said there was no nationwide shortage of Tamiflu, but some areas of the country were experiencing temporary shortages. There are a number of alternatives to Tamiflu, which can prevent the flu and reduce the severity and duration of illness, but many doctors are unaware of these options, experts say.
The shortages highlight the fragility of the country’s drug supply chain, especially for cheap generics like amoxicillin that are made by only a handful of companies. Experts say the low prices of these drugs discourage investment in sophisticated quality management systems, which can improve manufacturers’ agility in times of shortages and enable them to scale up production more quickly.
One manufacturer, Sandoz, said it was increasing production to meet increased demand and hoped to double production in the coming months. “We face challenges in meeting this sudden surge in demand now that flu season is in full swing,” the company said in a statement.
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