As amoxicillin shortage continues, prescriptions have plummeted, study finds: ‘Immediate, sweeping effect’
Heading into the 2023 flu season, the amoxicillin shortage in the U.S. has been in effect for nearly a year.
In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, a group of physicians from Boston Children’s Hospital determined that since the shortage began, the odds of a child being prescribed amoxicillin for ear infections have plummeted by 91%.
The study included 3,076 children averaging 3 years of age who were treated at one health care provider.
Most manufacturers did not share a reason for the amoxicillin shortage or provide an estimated timeframe for a resolution, the study found.
Fox News Digital reached out to the study authors for comment.
As the most commonly prescribed antibiotic for children, amoxicillin is often used to treat bacterial infections (including pneumonia), bronchitis and infections of the sinuses, ear, throat, skin and urinary tract, according to Medline.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially announced a national shortage of amoxicillin liquid on Oct. 28, 2022.
In the journal article, the study authors stated that the FDA should take more active steps to remedy the shortage.
“Drug shortages have an immediate, sweeping effect on prescribing patterns and should be monitored and intervened upon by regulatory agencies, policymakers and health systems alike,” the authors wrote.
“The FDA should consider increasing oversight of essential medications, requiring disclosure of supply issues, and incentivizing antibiotic production to mitigate their low profitability.”
Although the flu and other respiratory viruses are not treated with antibiotics, experts warn that they can trigger other conditions and infections that do require medications like amoxicillin.
“These viral infections often can cause ear infections, pneumonia and sinusitis,” warned the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on its website.
“Sometimes, bacterial infections develop during these viral illnesses as well.”
Much of the amoxicillin supply is made overseas, pointed out Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor.
“A vast majority of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make amoxicillin come from China and India,” said Siegel, who was not involved in the study.
Siegel said he believes the shortage stems from an overuse of the drug — “both from demand and over-prescription by pediatricians for what are often viral infections,” he said.
To help resolve the problem, Siegel noted that the FDA could work more directly with manufacturers, and that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could help provide incentives.
When liquid amoxicillin is not available, Siegel said there are alternative drugs like cephalosporins that are quite effective — “but we don’t want to overuse those either, as it could potentially breed more resistance.”
Walgreens, for its part, has taken a number of “proactive steps” to help meet the increased demand for amoxicillin that comes this time of year, according to the company.
“We can fill the majority of prescriptions at this time,” a Walgreens spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
“Our teams work year-round to forecast and will continue to work with our diverse set of suppliers and distributors throughout the season to best serve our patients.”
Amid amoxicillin supply constraints, Walgreens pharmacists may suggest “therapeutic alternatives” to prescribers and may direct patients to a nearby location that can fill their prescriptions, the spokesperson said.