Several headlines in recent weeks have discussed the implications of antibiotic shortages on flu and RSV treatments.
Such stories bring to light a significant issue for our medical community: the scarcity of routinely used antibiotics, particularly those used in children. For years, certain sectors of health care have been plagued by drug shortages, and this one is particularly concerning.
According to a letter from a coalition of European patient and consumer organizations, the European Union’s medicines regulator needs to do more to address regional shortages of several commonly used antibiotics.
The letter to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) comes as antibiotics, including amoxicillin, which is used to treat bacterial infections and is frequently given for ear and chest infections in children, have been in low supply since October.
According to the letter, actions such as switching amoxicillin for other antibiotics have reduced the availability of several other drugs, and the existing procedures in place to address the shortages have not stopped the situation.
Following two years of COVID restrictions, there has been an increase in demand for particular pharmaceuticals associated with the comeback of respiratory diseases, putting extra strain on global supplies. Drugmakers have similarly reduced output when demand fell during the pandemic’s peak.
However, the letter shows rising fears over long-term shortages in the region as winter comes to a close.
EMA, European Commission Take Action
The consortium asked the EMA to declare the current antibiotic scarcity a “major event,” which would allow the authority to coordinate pan-European action to solve the shortages and strengthen manufacturers’ reporting duties.
On Tuesday, the EMA and the European Commission did not immediately respond to demands for comment.
EMA chief medical officer Steffen Thirstrup told Reuters on Jan. 13 that the agency was monitoring the issue but did not believe it should be categorized as a big incident at the moment.
In a joint statement last week, the EMA and the Commission also stated that they were monitoring the situation and working with participants in the medication supply chain to enhance manufacturing capacity.