Is There an Amoxicillin Shortage? Parents Seek Answers as Viruses Surge

Kathryn Underwood - Author
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Nov. 16 2022, Published 2:47 p.m. ET

It has already been a difficult autumn for physicians and medical providers, and experts are warning of a winter “tripledemic” in the U.S. Adding to doctors' frustrations and concerns is an amoxicillin shortage. Amoxicillin is yet another item impacted by the supply shortage and it’s worrisome for pediatricians. Here’s what you need to know about the amoxicillin shortage.

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The FDA added Amoxicillin Oral Powder for Suspension to its list of drug shortages on Oct. 28, 2022. As Deseret News explains, the oral powder is often mixed with water at pharmacies to create a liquid form of the medication. It’s a common prescription given to young children for ear infections and other infections.

Why is there an amoxicillin shortage?

Amoxicillin
Source: Wikimedia Commons

There are several causes for the amoxicillin shortage in the U.S. One is the sheer volume of infections among pediatric patients, which may also be tied to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions over the past several years. Dr. Dyan Hes told Fox Business that “a generation of children raised in masks are catching every single cold that’s out there.”

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Weakened immune systems may be partly to blame for the so-called "tripledemic" of the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 this winter. The CDC has noted that cases of respiratory virus (RSV) have been rising lately. Infections treatable with amoxicillin have also been high.

Babies born in the past two years have likely been exposed to fewer viruses than is typical for young children, which makes them more susceptible to RSV, colds, and flu viruses.

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A child with a virus
Source: Getty Images

Dr. Nesheiwat, a Fox News medical contributor, said the amoxicillin shortage has two main causes: a lack of raw materials to make the drugs, plus “needless prescriptions” which she said make up about 25 percent of annual prescriptions.

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Doctors prescribe amoxicillin for bacterial infections.

Dr. Nesheiwat said she uses antibiotics like amoxicillin “all the time for my little pediatric patients.” She said it’s prescribed for infections like strep, sinus infections, ear infections, and pneumonia.

Amoxicillin is classified as a “penicillin-like antibiotic” and works to stop the growth of bacteria. It isn't effective against viral infections like a cold and the flu.

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Although amoxicillin doesn’t treat the flu or a cold, it’s always a good idea to practice good hygiene by wiping down surfaces and washing hands frequently, and teaching children to wash hands as well. Getting a flu shot and keeping sick children at home can also help your community stay healthy.

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What is an alternative for amoxicillin?

Fortunately, there are some effective alternatives for amoxicillin while the drug is in short supply. Prevention magazine says that amoxicillin can be taken in various forms: capsule, tablet, chewable, or liquid.

Jamie Alan, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, notes several potential alternatives. Choosing the right amoxicillin alternative depends on the illness being treated.

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Alan says azithromycin is a possible swap to treat pneumonia. “For ear infections, you can use a related medication like cefdinir or amoxicillin and clavulanic acid (Augmentin).”

A pharmacist
Source: Getty Images/Tom Merton
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Here’s what to do if you can’t find amoxicillin in your area.

If your child receives a prescription for amoxicillin, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider about possible alternatives. You might also ask your doctor or healthcare provider if there's an amoxicillin shortage in your area.

“Have a conversation with your provider about the need for antibiotics and appropriate alternative therapies,” says Crystal Tubbs, Pharm.D., associate director of pharmacy services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (via Prevention).

Your local pharmacist is one of the best resources to consult if you encounter an amoxicillin shortage after receiving a prescription. Asking the community pharmacist for recommendations on possible alternatives to amoxicillin is likely a good option.

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