IDAHO FALLS — Two-year-old Lillie Knowles started acting fussy last Monday. Her mom, Megan Knowles of Idaho Falls, had just been through RSV with Lillie’s sisters, and she knew she didn’t want to mess around with it again.
Knowles took Lillie to her pediatrician’s office the following day, where Lillie was diagnosed with strep throat and an ear infection. “It was bad, she would only sleep for maybe one or two hours at a time … she was up for almost 24 hours, the poor kid,” said Knowles. The news that it was something so treatable started with relief but turned into a nearly two-day chase to find a commonly prescribed antibiotic.
Lillie’s nurse practitioner warned Knowles that suspension (liquid) Amoxicillin was hard to find, but she had heard Walmart had some. They didn’t. Over the next two days, Knowles searched seven pharmacies between Rexburg and Idaho Falls in search of the drug that would start Lillie on the road to healing.
“All we could do was just give her Tylenol,” said Knowles. “She was pretty miserable. It’s frustrating not being able to treat the initial infection all the while it is just getting worse and worse.”
The Amoxicillin shortage is nationwide. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Amoxicillin oral antibiotic powder for suspension products currently appear on FDA’s drug shortage list. Amoxicillin is widely used for the treatment of bacterial upper and lower respiratory infections in the pediatric population.”
EastIdahoNews.com contacted 15 pharmacies in southeast Idaho from Rexburg to Pocatello. Out of the 15, only five had bottles of suspension Amoxicillin, and three of those five were down to their last bottles.
Dr. Kelsey Otero, a pharmacist at Ridley’s in Blackfoot, says they can’t keep up with demand, “We are out of stock; it has been really difficult for us to get in. We’ve been able to get it maybe once a week. I did have three bottles this morning, but now they’re gone.”
“At Albertsons, we keep trying to order it, but it is just hit and miss. We do get some in here and there, but it is not a consistent influx,” Stormie Cathey, a student pharmacist, said.
Dr. Staci Thayer is the pharmacist at Walgreens in Idaho Falls. She says they are taking the shortage day by day.
“The biggest thing is just to be patient with us,” said Thayer. “Keep checking around. We are more than happy to help out where we can, but there is just limited stock of what we can actually get in.”
In a November news release, the sole manufacturer for Amoxicillin, USAntibiotics, wrote the shortage could have been foreseen because there is no Amoxicillin manufacturer in the United States. All production is currently in China.
They went on to say, “Unfortunately, an early and severe outbreak of RSV and secondary infections is also contributing to this shortage. Parents should never be forced to visit multiple pharmacies to find the medicine needed to cure their children’s infections, nor should hospitals have to choose which patients get full doses of prescribed antibiotics, particularly when there is a trusted solution here at home.”
USAntibiotics says they have reached out to the Biden administration about bringing production of the drug to the United States and will be ready if they ask for assistance.
The FDA released guidance in November for the compounding of Amoxicillin to alleviate the shortage. In the guide, they suggested ways to meet the public’s needs during the shortage and said, “The FDA intends to prioritize its regulatory and enforcement actions regarding the preparation of beta-lactam oral antibiotic suspension products that appear FDA’s drug shortage list.”
When asked what parents searching for the drug can do for their sick kids, Cathey listed some of the FDA’s recommendations.
“The only thing to do in this situation is to call your doctor and get an alternative medication, or there are Amoxicillin capsules, and you can switch to a capsule. It’s difficult for a kid, but you can sprinkle it on their food. It’s just going to be a different dosage.” said Cathey.
“My 2-year-old is a bit stronger, and she can handle an infection for a few days while we search for medication, but that is one thing that I worry about,” said Knowles. “There are immune compromised babies trying to get the treatment they need.”
Knowles was never able to get her hands on a dose for her daughter. After searching frantically, Lillie was prescribed a more potent antibiotic, usually reserved for older kids with more severe infections. She is finally on the mend.
Knowles believes the government is not doing enough to help, “Just a couple years ago, we were opening up football stadiums to vaccinate everybody, and it was top priority to keep everyone safe … and now nobody is really reaching out to help.”
While drug supply changes daily per pharmacy, Walgreens and Walmart in Rexburg told EastIdahoNews.com they had several doses left.