Baby with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in hospital. gettyIn the U.S., all but 6 states are currently experiencing “high” or “very high” respiratory virus levels. The nation is faced with a so-called “tripledemic” of ongoing Covid-19, which is leading to increases in hospitalizations once again in certain areas; influenza, which has re-emerged in full fury nationwide after a two year absence; and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is already nearing seasonal peak levels in a growing number of regions of the country.
As a result, there are acute shortages of a number of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines used for symptomatic relief, such as the children’s medications liquid acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Record levels of illnesses have also caused a spike in demand for amoxicillin. This has resulted in an acute shortage of the antibiotic, which is widely used for the treatment of bacterial upper and lower respiratory infections in, among others, the pediatric population.
Some of this excess demand may actually be inappropriate, as amoxicillin is indicated for bacterial infections, not viral ones. Nonetheless, across the country multiple strains of streptococcus infections are being reported at elevated levels. And, some viral infections can lead to secondary bacterial infections over time.
Dr. Megan Ranney reports that besides amoxicillin, shortages of other antibiotics have emerged, especially pediatric formulations.
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The root causes of all these shortages are manifold. Solutions in the short term are hard to come by, given the profound dysfunctionality that persists in the drug supply chain.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “drug shortages can occur for many reasons, including manufacturing and quality problems, delays, and discontinuations.”
Conspicuously absent in the list of factors mentioned by FDA are difficulties …