A shortage of the common antibiotic Amoxicillin continues across the US as an increasing number of kids are diagnosed with seasonal illnesses and more parents are forced to call out of work to care for them.
As pharmacies struggle, due to an ongoing shortage that the FDA warned about several weeks ago, to keep up with the demand from parents for Amoxicillin, more and more Americans have been required to stay home from work to tend to their sick children.
The FDA initially blamed a surge in demand for the shortage, as the numbers of respiratory syncytial virus cases skyrocket to unseasonably high figures alongside the seasonal surges of strep throat, ear infections and other respiratory illnesses.
Infectious-disease specialists say a number of factors but primarily weakened immune systems from the pandemic are contributing to the recent spike in viral infections.
‘Pandemic babies,’ who were guarded against respiratory pathogens because of measures like social distancing are also now getting sick and the easing of mask mandates in schools makes it easier for viruses to spread, especially among those with weakened immune systems.
An increasing number of children are arriving at hospital with respiratory symptoms and other illnesses related to RSV. A national shortage of Amoxicillin is making treating the virus harder
More sick kids has also meant more parents calling out of work, a statistic that is hurting worker productivity and the financial stability of families dependent upon salaries that come from jobs without sick pay
Amoxicillin – especially liquid Amoxicillin – is used to treat infections in children that tend to arise alongside RSV. Those can include ear infections and throat infections, like strep
Though major pharmaceutical chains like CVS and Walgreens initially said they were able to keep up with the increased need for Amoxicillin, parents across the US have been getting calls and texts that their pharmacies are out of the drug.
Erin Fox, a senior pharmacy director at the University of Utah Health who tracks shortages of drugs said ‘supplier were just not prepared for’ the sudden run on Amoxicillin.
Sonika Patel, a pharmacist at Lo Cost Pharmacy in Savannah, Georgia said the drug has ‘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,’ she told WTOC.
Most of the products currently in short supply are the powder for oral suspension that is mixed with water at the pharmacy to become a liquid version of the drug given to children.
In her estimation, the drug will be back in supply anywhere between late November and early December.
Rudy Njam, who runs iPharmacy in Livonia – a city between Detroit and Ann Arbor – says that being an independent pharmacist, he was able to source liquid Amoxicillin from multiple vendors, an option some major pharmacies do not have.
‘We, luckily, have a lot,’ he said. ‘We have a big stock but most of the big drug stores are out,’ he recent told ABC7 Detroit.
Dr. Ben Spitalnick, a local pediatrician in Savannah, says he’s seeing more respiratory infections in children right now than he has in the last half-decade.
Amoxicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic to treat ailments like strep throat and bronchitis in kids. It does not directly treat RSV, but is used for infections that often occur alongside the virus, like ear infections.
‘It gets the job done without overtreating, without putting a child on something stronger than need so they don’t develop a resistance,’ said Spitalnick. There are, however, ‘other options available,’ he said.
One New York doctor said lots of kids are coming to the hospital with more than one virus attacking their immune systems.
He believes the numbers of children hospitalized with RSV this year will exceed the approximately 60,000 hospitalized in a normal year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One mother tells of the nightmare situation she encountered with her son at the ER after she was unable to procure Amoxicillin for a strep throat infection he had
For at least the next several weeks, the reality of the shortage means parents have to spend hours on the phone with local pharmacies chasing down doses of the drug. Though some providers expect the end of the shortage to arrive later this month
For at least the next several weeks, the reality of the shortage means parents have to spend hours on the phone with local pharmacies chasing down doses of the drug.
One parent wrote that her son tested positive for strep but was not able to get Amoxicillin at CVS or Walgreens. The child’s condition worsened and was ultimately admitted to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and RSV in addition to strep.
The mother, Marie Rojas, said children were being airlifted because there were so few beds in pediatric ICUs in the Chicagoland area available.
Stacey Marie Abney told DailyMail.com that she drove to four different pharmacies in her area of Kansas City, Missouri searching for the Amoxicillin her daughter needed.
She said that her husband, who was in Dallas at the time, also had trouble finding the drug when he went looking to see if any local pharmacies had it. He had planned to overnight it to his family if they were unable to source some.
Some parents have been forced to spend hours on the phone attempting to alter the prescription given to their child in order to make it attainable.
A mother of a seven-year-old in the Detroit, Michigan area said her son was prescribed Amoxicillin to treat a bad ear infection. But she soon received a notification from her local CVS that they were out of the antibiotic.
After hours of back and forth with her son’s doctor, she was able to get the prescription altered so that a local pharmacy could fill it, but said it was hard to ‘get the panic feeling because my child needs your medication,’ which is unavailable.
The shortage is also having a financial impact on parents who do not work jobs with paid sick leave.
More than 100,000 Americans missed work last month – an all time high – because of child-care problems, many of which come down to sick children and sick daytime caregivers.
That number is higher than what is was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Diane Swonk, KPMG’s chief economist, told the Washington Post that having ‘sick kids at the same time’ as a child-care crisis means ‘there just isn’t any wiggle room.’
‘People are falling through the cracks. It means missed paychecks, disruptions at home, and staffing shortages that erode productivity growth and increase costs at a time when we’re already worried about those things,’ she said.
According to federal data, worker productivity dropped at at its sharpest ever rate on record during the first half of this year