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Amoxicillin drug shortage worries parents heading into cold season

A continued shortage of commonly used kids' antibiotics is worrying parents as we head into the season of winter respiratory illnesses.
Liquid amoxicillin shortage
Posted at 10:18 AM, Sep 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-26 09:05:04-04

MILWAUKEE — A continued shortage of commonly used kids' antibiotics is worrying parents as we head into the season of winter respiratory illnesses.

"Somebody getting sick all the time," Keionte Bond, father of four said. "It's chaotic. It trickles down. Once one gets it, the other gets it. It goes body to body then after they get done, it comes to me every time."

Keynote Bond father of four
As a father of four young girls, Keionte Bond is all too familiar with the impact a sickness can have on his family. It tears through everyone quickly and sometimes an antibiotic is the only way they can find relief.

This time of year, Bond anticipates one of his four girls, who are between 2 and 11 years old, will be sick. There's been many a sickness that required one of the little ones to slurp down that familiar bubblegum elixir; liquid amoxicillin. But this season, it may be more difficult for him to get his hands on that pink savior.

"It would make it extremely harder," Bond said. "They get up grumpy and sometimes when you don't have the things you need to make them feel better, it just makes me feel bad and makes me want to do more as a father."

According to the FDA, liquid forms of amoxicillin -- typically used to treat children for strep, chest and sinus infections, and earaches -- are still in short supply.

Last year, 22.6 percent of all antibiotics prescribed in the country were amoxicillin, according to Atlas Prescription Claims. And local pharmacists say delays in this particular drug are not something parents want to play around with.

Dr. Kyle Beyer North Shore Pharmacy
Dr. Kyle Beyer at North Shore Pharmacy says, parents should be aware of the liquid amoxicillin shortage, but he feels confident they'll be able to provide the antibiotic to families during the next few months.

"Unlike some other medications, that's not one you really want to wait on," Dr. Kyle Beyer, Owner and Manager of North Shore Pharmacy said. "That's something you're hoping to get that first dose in the night. The sooner they get the dose, the sooner they can get back to daycare or school. We know it's important."

At North Shore Pharmacy, Beyer says he's not in panic mode about this shortage. They dealt with the same thing last year so he feels more prepared this time around.

"We know it's coming," Beyer said. "It's fall. We're going to see more antibiotics. It's just another thing we're going to be prepared for."

Since North Shore is an independent pharmacy, Beyer says they generally have an easier time getting medications like this than larger chain pharmacies. Additionally, one thing that elevates North Shore Pharmacy in Cedarburg is they have a compound lab. There are only a few of these in the entire state and Beyer says it allows them to create the liquid amoxicillin themselves. The capsule and tablet forms of the medication are not in short supply. So Beyer's team can use those to create a suspension from scratch.

"We have the tablets, we have the capsules, we can turn that into a suspension here as a compounded product which does give providers flexibility," Beyer said. "It's a unique capability we have that a lot of others don't."

Beyer categorizes his concern as a four out of 10. While his concern is relatively low, he's not without concern. It will just take some more creativity and flexibility to fulfill the requests that may come in.

"If we do happen to be out, you'll know right away," Beyer said. "We're goign to give you some options, we'll contact your provider if necessary. The good news is, they're aware too. Many are calling us ahead of time saying, we're sending a prescription. Do you have it in stock? Which is fantastic. It saves them a call, the parent a call and us a call."

CNN reports there is no relief in sight. Because of the shortage -- customers can only order a limited amount of the powder used to make liquid amoxicillin. That means pharmacies may run out quickly at a time when demand is especially high.

"It depends on the day," Dr. Beth Buckley, Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Concordia University said. "Depends on the pharmacy."

Buckley believes the shortage is due to a number of factors, including possible supply chain issues and increasing expenses for manufacturers.

Some analysts say the shortage is due to amoxicillin's low price point; it's not as profitable for manufacturers to make, so they focus on other drugs.

Though, Buckley doesn't think the dollars and cents of it all is the reason for the shortage.

"I wouldn't say that," Buckley said. "It is one of the top drugs used and is still working. Luckily, the price hasn't gone up and it's affordable for people. It's one of the top medications we can use."

Plus, there are alternatives to amoxicillin, so there's less urgency to address the issue. Both Buckley and Beyer say they can work with prescribers to find an appropriate alternative for families.

Bond hopes those alternatives will help his girls through any upcoming sicknesses, because as a loving father it's hard for him to see them struggle.

"It just makes it difficult man," Bond said.