‘This is no reason to panic:’ Doctors, pharmacists not worried about Amoxicillin shortage

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 4:07 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - One drug used to treat bacterial infections, like strep throat, is in short supply this season.

That drug is amoxicillin and chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve taken amoxicillin for something like strep throat or bronchitis.

“It’s been on backorder since October. That’s when we’ve been having a big uptick in bronchitis and RSV and everything, so the demand for it is so high that people aren’t able to keep up with supply,” said Sonika Patel, a pharmacist at Lo Cost Pharmacy.

That can pose a problem, particularly for children.

Dr. Ben Spitalnick, a local pediatrician, says that he’s seeing more respiratory infections in children right now than he has in the last five or so years and Amoxicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic to treat things like strep throat and bronchitis in kids.

“It is really inexpensive, and it gets the job done without overtreating, without putting a child on something stronger than needed so they don’t develop a resistance,” said Dr. Spitalnick.

Because the antibiotic is in short supply, Spitalnick says he sometimes has to prescribe other medications, that aren’t as ideal.

”Preferably, you would use a milder antibiotic to treat an infection than you need to. You don’t want to use something too strong and develop resistance, but there are other antibiotics available when Amoxicillin can’t be found.”

Generally, Spitalnick and Patel agree, insurance will cover different antibiotics so there shouldn’t be a big difference in cost.

The wait time to actually get the medicine, however, could be longer.

“Someone comes in, doctor’s offices usually close around 5:00, so if they come after 5:00 and we’re completely out of that antibiotic, it’s kind of hard to reach the doctor’s office. We won’t hear anything from the doctor’s office until probably the next morning, if we can change the antibiotic to something else,” said Patel.

“Even though there is an Amoxicillin shortage, this is no reason to panic. Most of the infections we’re seeing are viruses, so antibiotics aren’t always needed. and should an antibiotic be needed, there are other options available,” said Dr. Spitalnick.

It’s important to note that while flu and RSV cases are on the rise, antibiotics aren’t used to treat those because they’re viruses.

Patel says that likely, Amoxicillin will be back in supply anywhere from late November to early December..

She mentioned that we’ve seen medicine shortages before, for example, she says there was a TamiFlu shortage a few years ago.

It’s just a waiting game for the medicine to come back into supply and in the meantime, doctors and pharmacists have backup plans ready to go.