A number of antibiotics have been reported to be in short supply since midway through last year. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its drug shortage list to include several antibiotics, with amoxicillin included.
The problem extends across North America and Europe, as various factors have combined to make the supply of antibiotics intermittent.
The principal reasons behind the shortage are due to the pandemic, which greatly impacted supply from countries such as China and India; the winter period is also a time when there is a higher demand placed on antibiotics; and the supply of antibiotics has historically been weak, even without the other factors included.
Amoxicillin itself is a penicillin antibiotic used to treat a number of common bacterial infections, such as chest infections and ear infections.
As a result of the current situation, Jackson Pharmacy Professionals commissioned a survey, titled Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians on the Continuing Amoxicillin Shortage, to understand how widely the amoxicillin shortage existed across the US, and to learn about the impacts the low supply has had on other aspects of the medical supply chain.
The survey found that 73% of pharmacists had observed an amoxicillin shortage where they worked in the last 45 days, when the survey was conducted in early February.
Further, the report outlined that rural areas were more likely to be hit by supply issues, as 87% of pharmacists located in rural areas stated they had experienced issues.
When asked, 90% of respondents agreed, with two thirds strongly agreeing, that the federal government should secure the supply chain, and prioritize amoxicillin production in the US, even if the costs were 5-10% greater.
Respondents were also encouraged to give their personal observations on the shortage, one of which read as follows: “It is absurd 100% of amoxicillin has been manufactured outside of the US. As Americans we need to prioritize our businesses and make amoxicillin readily available. Our citizens are suffering. Amoxicillin plays a vital role in health care for it’s the most commonly used antibiotic. Due to this antibiotic shortage, it has created a chain reaction leading us to shortages on all antibiotics.”
As mentioned, the US is not the only country to be hit by the shortage. Due to ongoing difficulties sourcing amoxicillin in Canada, Juno Pharmaceuticals received authorization by Health Canada to import amoxicillin powder for oral suspension. The country had seen the antibiotic go onto backorder, with the product being rationed and alternative formulations being dispensed.