What the Amoxicillin Shortage Means for Parents and Children


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Key Takeaways

  • Amoxicillin is one of the most commonly used antibiotics, especially for children, and there's a shortage of the drug because of supply chain issues and manufacturing delays.
  • The shortage may result in delays when it comes to getting appropriate treatment.
  • There are possible alternatives to amoxicillin, but a healthcare provider should evaluate the best option based on the specific illness, the age of the patient, and more.

Amoxicillin is an antibiotic often used to treat bacterial infections in children, but the medication is in short supply.

At least three out of five major manufacturers of amoxicillin have reported shortages, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ drug shortage database.

Amoxicillin is not the first drug to see delays in manufacturing along with supply chain issues as of late. Most recently, a shortage of Adderall—which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy—has also been reported. 

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated medicine shortages and supply chain disruptions,” said Janice Johnston, MD, co-founder and chief medical officer of Redirect Health.

Doctors often prescribe amoxicillin to treat children with ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, dental abscesses, and more. “The antibiotic is considered very effective for children and is well tolerated,” she said.

For those who need the drug, the shortage is more than just an inconvenience, especially for concerned parents with sick children. Fortunately for those that need the treatment, there are alternatives, but they don’t necessarily come quickly.

Amoxicillin Alternatives

With antibiotics, it’s not as simple as asking the pharmacist to swap out the medication for another. If the drug isn’t readily available, Johnston said, pharmacists generally have to call the doctor’s office and get a prescription for something else sent in.

“That takes time, and when you’ve got a child that doesn’t feel well, that can feel like an eternity,” Johnston said. “Alternative antibiotics exist, but often may be more expensive, not quite as effective, or have side effects.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), amoxicillin is the first-line therapy for conditions like strep throat and middle ear infections. In some cases, other antibiotics like cefdinir may be used.

“It’s always best for your doctor to determine what alternative option is best for your child’s unique situation,” Johnston added. “There are many different antibiotics suitable for children, but some work better than others for particular illness.”

Bloomberg reported that the Food and Drug Administration is working with manufacturers to fix the problem, which is currently affecting Canada and Australia as well. 

What This Means For You

If your child is ill and has been given a prescription for amoxicillin, be prepared that it may be out of stock. If this is the case, your doctor can likely prescribe something different based on the specific illness and other factors.

1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic prescribing and use: pediatric outpatient treatment recommendations.

By Mira Miller
Mira Miller is a freelance writer specializing in mental health, women's health, and culture.