(CNN) — Shortage of key drugs used to treat common childhood illnesses like the flu, Ear infections and sore throats are adding to the woes of this year’s early and severe respiratory virus season.
“Right now we are experiencing a serious shortage of medicines. There is no Tamiflu for children. Tamiflu for adults is rare. Renae Kraft, a relief pharmacist in Oklahoma City, said: She also said, “As far as antibiotics go, there aren’t that many.”
Kraft often works in rural areas of the state, hopping from pharmacy to pharmacy when she needs extra help. On Monday, she worked in Holdenville, which has two pharmacies: Pruett’s and Walmart. The same wholesaler has both stores, she says, so when one pharmacy closes, the other one closes as well.
Kraft sent 20 people to Pruett’s on Monday to fill their Tamiflu prescriptions but didn’t have any, so they sent them to Walmart, where they still have them.
On social media, families say they’ve been hunting for hours for Tamiflu and first-line antibiotics, amoxicillin and Augmentin. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which maintains a drug shortage list, inhalers of the drug albuterol, which is used to open the airways in the lungs, are also in short supply.
Anyone can report a shortage on the conference list, and pharmacists at the University of Utah check the information with drug manufacturers.
“In 25 years of working as a pediatrician, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dr. Stacene Maroushek, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Hennepin Healthcare in Minnesota. “I’ve seen families who can’t get a break. They, in turn, have viral diseases. And now there is a secondary effect of ear infection and pneumonia triggering amoxicillin deficiency.”
respiratory virus strike
Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy practice and quality for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, says manufacturing problems are unlikely to be the cause of these shortages.
“It was just ahead of schedule and higher than usual demand,” he said.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the US has “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity. Much of that is due to the influenza that hit earlier this year. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also plays a role. Nationally, about 1 in 5 tests for RSV tested positive in the past week, a much higher rate than at any point in the past two years.
There were about 8 flu hospitalizations per 100,000 people this season, a rate typically seen in December or January. Cumulative hospitalization rates haven’t been this high at this point in the season in over a decade.
According to GoodRx.com, a company that helps people find discounts on prescription drugs, prescriptions for the antiviral drug Tamiflu hit a 10-year high around this time of year.
Americans are six times more likely to take Tamiflu at this point in the flu season than in the winter of 2019-20 the following year.
It’s not entirely clear why demand is so high for the antibiotics amoxicillin and augumentin (a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate that help prevent antibiotic resistance).
The CDC considers it a first-line treatment for many common childhood ailments, such as ear, sinus, and throat infections.
Some viral illnesses, such as influenza, can make the body more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections that may require antibiotic treatment.
However, these antibiotics were prescribed inappropriately even when the child’s illness was actually caused by a virus. Antibiotics kill bacteria but do nothing to fight viral diseases.
“Every time a respiratory virus starts, people inappropriately start prescribing antibiotics, which has created a lot of demand. That’s something the amoxicillin manufacturers didn’t anticipate, which led to shortages.
The company works to address the shortage
Pharmaceutical companies that make generic drugs generally do not keep those drugs on the shelf. Instead, they manufacture medicines based on what was ordered at the beginning of the year. Some manufacturers said orders this year did not anticipate a peak season for respiratory illnesses.
We are ramping up production in response, but it will take time to get more products in stock.
The drugmaker Teva said it expects to restock some concentrations of amoxicillin, which it still has in stock, from early December to the end of February.
Sandoz, which also manufactures generic amoxicillin, said there are many shortage factors. “The combination of the impact of the pandemic and the resulting fluctuating demand, manufacturing capacity constraints, raw material shortages and the current energy crisis in rapid succession means that we are currently facing a uniquely challenging situation,” the company said in a statement.
Hikma, another amoxicillin manufacturer, said it had enough supplies to fill orders and was managing supplies to ensure all orders were filled.
“We understand the importance of this drug and are looking at ways to increase production,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
The other company that makes amoxicillin and the company that makes Tamiflu and its generics did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to help during the shortage, such as issuing instructions to pharmacists on how to make liquid amoxicillin for children in pill form. Amoxicillin pills for adults are not in short supply, Ganio said.
Advice for Parents
News of these shortages may cause some anxiety, but parents should be aware, but not alarmed, said Brigid Groves, pharmacist and senior director for practice and professional affairs at the American Pharmacists Association.
The most important thing families can do for a loved one who is sick is to get tested, she said. Most doctor’s offices and some pharmacy clinics can run a rapid test to help determine whether symptoms are from a viral or bacterial illness.
“We don’t want to treat people with Covid with antibiotics, because antibiotics won’t be effective,” Groves said. “And we also risk creating more resistance from existing bacterial antimicrobials.”
A recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that approximately 30% of outpatient prescriptions for children were inadequate because they were given medications to treat viral illnesses or did not use recommended medications. The study also found that antibiotics increased the risk of C. diff, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection. allergic reaction; skin rash.
“It’s important for family members or caregivers to properly assess their loved ones to ensure that they are getting the right care and what care they are receiving,” Groves said. It could be a viral disease or bacterial infection, or a condition that requires medications such as albuterol to make sure it is being used appropriately for children who are wheezing or having trouble breathing.
Groves also said parents should be aware that it may take some hunting to fill their child’s prescription for Tamiflu or Amoxicillin. You may have to drive farther or go to an unfamiliar store.
Other antibiotics or antivirals may be prescribed if all stores in the area are closed, she said.
“There are options to treat the same infection with different medications,” she said.
A dispensing pharmacy may mix the medications you need.