There's a national shortage of amoxicillin, one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics.
"There’s a Shortage of Some Amoxicillin, FDA Says" (WSJ, 11/1)
"Amoxicillin prescribed for children is in short supply, FDA says" (Fox News, 11/3)
"Amoxicillin shortage has parents panicking: ‘It’s a little bit freaky’" (NY Post, 11/7)
Here's what you should know about this antibiotic shortage and how it could affect your family's health:
What is amoxicillin?
Amoxicillin is an oral antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections. Amoxicillin has many uses, including treating middle ear infections and sinus infections; however, it can also be used to treat more serious conditions such as pneumonia or cystitis (bladder infection). Amoxicillin is usually taken orally with food once or twice daily for 7-10 days; however some patients may be prescribed a different dose than others depending on their age and severity of their symptoms.
As an antibiotic, amoxicillin only treats infections caused by bacteria, not those caused by viruses.
Amoxicillin is used to treat ear infections
Amoxicillin is perhaps most well-known for the treatment of middle ear infections (otitis media) in kids.
Middle ear infection (otitis media) is most often seen in kids age 2 or younger, with fever. Middle ear infection is diagnosed by looking in the ear with an otoscope, and seeing a red or swollen ear drum (tympanic membrane).
Older kids and adults with ear pain but no fever are more likely to have an outer ear infection (otitis externa), also known as swimmer's ear. In otitis externa, the ear canal is affected, and the ear drum itself is usually normal. Mild outer ear infections are usually treated with ear drops, not amoxicillin or any other oral antibiotic.
As always, there are exceptions, so speak with your doctor.
Amoxicillin is in short supply
The FDA announced a shortage of amoxicillin on October 28. The liquid form (suspension), usually prescribed to children, is most affected.
The FDA reports that the shortage is due to increased demand. Some doctors have speculated that an increase in respiratory illnesses in children this season is to blame for this change in demand.
At Duration Health, we received reports of a shortage of amoxicillin-clavulanate, an antibiotic in pill form that contains amoxicillin as one of its ingredients. It's unclear whether this was due to the national amoxicillin shortage.
What to do if you need amoxicillin
If you think you (or your child) has an infection that requires amoxicillin, see your doctor.
If your doctor prescribes amoxicillin, speak with him or her about the following options to address the shortage:
Ask for alternate forms of amoxicillin
The liquid form of amoxicillin is currently most affected by the shortage. Ask your doctor if the chewable form would be an appropriate alternative.
Ask for an alternate antibiotic that contains amoxicillin
The antibiotic amoxicillin-clavulanate (generic for Augmentin) contains two medications in one dose, one of which is amoxicillin itself.
Normally doctors will choose the most targeted antibiotic possible, to avoid side effects and to avoid creating antibiotic resistance. However, in case of a shortage of "plain" amoxicillin, your doctor may decide that the broader amoxicillin-clavulanate option is appropriate.
As mentioned earlier, it's unclear to what degree the supply of amoxicillin-clavulanate is affected by the shortage.
Ask for a backup prescription with an alternate medication
Ask your doctor for a second, backup prescription for an alternate antibiotic to use if you're not able to find amoxicillin at your pharmacy.
For otitis media, alternate antibiotic options include cefdinir, cefpodoxime, and cefuroxime. These antibiotics are in the cephalosporin family, and are closely related to amoxicillin and other penicillin-family antibiotics.
Recognize that these alternates may be less effective than amoxicillin in some cases, although for many patients they will be equally effective.
If you think you may need amoxicillin or any other antibiotic, discuss the information in this article with your doctor and you'll be better prepared during this ongoing shortage.
The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.