Amoxicillin, the antibiotic most often used to treat childhood ailments like ear infections and other bacterial infections, namely in children, is in short supply. Last month, the FDA placed the drug, which typically comes in a bubblegum pink liquid form, on its drug shortages list.
Why the popular antibiotic’s liquid form is in short supply is less clear. Manufacturers like Aurobindo, Hikma, and Sandoz have not provided reasons for the shortage. Like everything else throughout the pandemic, the medication has presumably been impacted by supply chain issues.
And, with the tripledemic in full swing (a resurgence of COVID-19, seasonal influenza, and the spike in RSV in children), the drug has reportedly been in high demand, despite the fact that antibiotics do not treat viral infections. The FDA officially listed an increase in demand as the primary reason for the shortage.
“The FDA recognizes the potential impact any drug shortage may have on health care providers and patients,” the FDA told BuzzFeed News. “While the agency does not manufacture drugs and cannot require a pharmaceutical company to make a drug, make more of a drug, or change the distribution of a drug, the public should rest assured the FDA works closely with manufacturers to prevent or reduce the impact of shortages.”
Fortunately, the shortage is only affecting the liquid form, but for parents of young kids who rely on the drug, especially during the holiday season, the squeeze is already being felt — especially in rural areas or communities with less pharmacy options.
So what is a parent to do if their child is sick and they suspect that an antibiotic like amoxicillin is the fix? The first thing parents should do is is consult their child’s pediatrician about treatment options. A doctor may recommended “watchful waiting,” or carefully tracking a child’s symptoms to make sure whatever illness they do have can even be treated by amoxicillin.
Amoxicillin is an antibiotic, so it is not helpful for viral illnesses like the flu or RSV, although it is sometimes prescribed after an illness to prevent secondary infections. Watchful waiting can help eliminate needlessly prescribing the drug, which could exacerbate the shortage.
If a child requires amoxicillin, the good news is the tablet and pill forms can be crushed up and administered with a soft food like applesauce for younger kids who aren’t able to swallow pills whole quite yet. There are also other antibiotics that can be used in place of amoxicillin should they be deemed necessary for treatment.
In the mean time, make sure kids (and adults) are frequently washing their hands and quarantining if they are feeling under the weather.