SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — As the ‘tripledemic’ has ramped up in recent weeks, people heading to hospitals and urgent care centers are dealing with another challenge: an amoxicillin shortage.

High rates of infection caused by COVID, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the influenza virus have many families worried, and are leaving children with coughs, congestion and even secondary issues such as ear infections. Though amoxicillin cannot treat RSV or other viral illnesses, it is often used to treat the secondary infections that result from these viruses, including pneumonia.

According to the Federal Drug Administration, there is an active shortage of amoxicillin powder for suspension — a version of the antibiotic that is most frequently prescribed to children. Four of the five distribution companies for the drug cite a “demand increase” as the reason for the shortage.

Dr. Jim Scott, Dean of Touro University California College of Pharmacy, tells KRON4 that people can be allergic to antibiotics. If a patient can easily tolerate amoxicillin, it may not mean they can tolerate the next best drug.

But what can people do if their pharmacy is out of amoxicillin? Dr. Scott says folks should contact their medical provider so “an appropriate alternative can be identified,” for treatment.

Doctor Laura Bio, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP, and clinical pharmacist specialist at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, shared more detailed information on how parents can best advocate for treatment options amidst the shortage:

  1. Dr. Bio recommends maintaining communication with your prescriber to find an alternative treatment, such as a new prescription for amoxicillin capsules that can be opened and mixed in a small amount of applesauce.
  2. When neither amoxicillin chewable tablets or capsules are an option (either due to age or appropriate weight-based dosing), then an alternative antibiotic may be prescribed by their provider, depending on the indication.

Kaiser Permanente tells KRON4 that the amoxicillin supply in the Northern California region is currently sufficient, but the company is keeping a close eye on availability at the wholesale and pharmacy levels. The company went on to say that there are clinical alternative treatment options available, depending on the patient.

Kaiser Permanente has also been warehousing some additional drug supply to help ensure we have adequate supply for our members and patients.

Kaiser Permanente

Pharmaceutical chain Walgreens tells KRON4 that demand for amoxicillin has increased, however, “Walgreens is still able to meet patient needs at this time and will continue to work with our suppliers and distributors throughout the season to best serve our patients.”

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As for why we’re facing a shortage, some theories are tied to the fact that there is only one producer licensed to manufacture amoxicillin in the country: pharmaceutical company USAntibiotics. In early November, USAntibiotics shared a press release stating that the company was ready for an uptick in demand, and laying blame for the shortage on the “offshoring of pharmaceutical production.”

Patrick Cashman, President of USAntibiotics, says that because the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to make amoxicillin are only manufactured overseas, he believes the shortage could have been foreseen. Cashman went on to say that the company is ready to partner with the federal government “should they ask for assistance.”

KRON4 reached out to USAntibiotics for comment on the current state of the shortage, but the message was not returned.