Doctors face medication shortage as flu, RSV cases rise

(NewsNation) — It’s the season for travel and holiday feasts with loved ones, but it’s also peak cold and flu season.

Unfortunately, some festivities may increase your likelihood of being sick, and there’s a medication shortage as flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases are on the rise.

Doctors and patients are facing a shortage of amoxicillin, which is commonly given to people for bacterial infections, especially in children. It is one of 120 prescription medications on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of drugs that are currently experiencing shortages.

Likewise, Albuterol, which is used to assist the lungs in absorbing oxygen, has been listed on the FDA’s short supply list since Oct. 25.

That does not include the host of families online reportedly unable to get their hands on Tamiflu — another antiviral drug that can treat and prevent the flu.  

“As the only remaining American manufacturer of the prescribed medication known as Amoxicillin, we have repeatedly expressed our concern about the offshoring of pharmaceutical production,” USAntibiotics wrote in a Nov. 7 press release.

USAntibiotics is the sole licensed American manufacturer of penicillin-based Amoxicillin and Amoxil Clavulanate — the popular antibiotics otherwise known as Amoxil® and Augmentin®.

“The fact that there is no American manufacturer of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) required to produce this critical medication is nearsighted and misguided. A shortage should have been foreseen…,” the press release read.

According to the FDA, the shortages in antibiotics are due to decade-high flu and RSV hospitalizations around the country — data congruent with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report that more than half of US states have “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity,

That does not include COVID-19, which, while having decreased in new cases and deaths, has been steady in the number of new hospitalizations, according to CDC data.  

This three-prong virus attack has some health officials calling the 2022 holiday season a “tripledemic,” which is only exacerbated by the shortage of antibodies.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says another reason for the shortage is that a lot of antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately to people who have viral infections.

“Amoxicillin is one that can be overprescribed. Eighty percent of antibiotic prescriptions in the outpatient arena are inappropriate,” Adalja said. “There’s a lot of respiratory viruses, we know that doctors will prescribe antibiotics inappropriately for respiratory viruses. So you’ve got that demand that wasn’t anticipated by the manufacturers of amoxicillin causing these shortages.

“We do need to get a handle on inappropriate antimicrobial prescriptions because antibiotic resistance is a major public health threat that’s underappreciated,” he added.


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