Pharmacies across the U.S. are contending with an industrywide shortage of the amoxicillin drug, commonly prescribed to treat a variety of childhood infections, including ailments like ear infections, strep throat and pneumonia.
The supply constraint is hitting drugstores as children head back to school and infections spread. A spokesperson for pharmacy chain CVS Health said its stores are grappling with a nationwide shortage of some forms of the drug.
“There’s an industrywide supplier shortage of certain doses of amoxicillin, and we’re working with manufacturers to replenish supply as quickly as possible,” a CVS spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
When the drug is out of stock at a particular location, CVS pharmacy teams are helping patients find amoxicillin at nearby locations, and also working with prescribers to determine suitable alternative drugs for patients, the spokesperson noted.
Walgreens did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the drug shortage.
The shortage comes as many children around U.S. return to school, raising the risk of infection. Two school districts in Kentucky were closed this week due to a surge in sicknesses in their communities.
“All schools will be closed in Magoffin County on Thursday and Friday (8/24 & 8/25) due to widespread illness,” the schools district said Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration first acknowledged the shortage last fall, adding amoxicillin products to its list of drugs that are in short supply. The FDA said an increase in demand for the drug was driving the shortage.
A congressional report on the risks of drug shortages in the U.S. also pointed to manufacturing snags and other supply-chain disruptions, strong consumer demand, and overprescription by doctors as drivers of the shortages.
Liquid forms of the drug, suitable for children who are too young to swallow pills, are in short supply, according to the FDA’s list. They’re manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals and other drug companies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has compiled a list of alternative antibiotic options for common pediatric conditions. If available, the best alternatives are other forms of amoxicillin, in tablet, capsule or in chewable form.
“Tablets can be split/crushed to mix with any liquid or semisolid, like applesauce. This can be given orally or by tube,” according to the AAP.
Health systems such as hospitals are also experiencing shortages of liquid forms of amoxicillin, according to Vizient, which negotiates drug contracts for more than 60% of the nation’s health systems.
“As we go into the fall and winter seasons, we are starting to see an early rise in demand for amoxicillin already,” Mittal Sutaria, senior vice president of pharmacy contract and program services at Vizient, told CBS MoneyWatch. “We will have to see how it plays out, whether it’s going to become more severe as demand increases or if we’ll have enough supply. Sometimes anticipatory purchasing leads to supply challenges.”
Other drugs, ranging from children’s Tylenol to cancer medications, have also recentlyin the U.S.