Recent shortages of certain drugs to treat children's respiratory illnesses are worrying both physicians and parents amid surges of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu and continuing COVID-19 cases.
Some formulations of the prescription antibiotic amoxicillin and liquid pediatric formulations of the over-the-counter fever and pain medications acetaminophen (Children's Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Children's Advil, Children's Motrin) have been scarce in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. While amoxicillin isn't effective against viruses, clinicians sometimes presumptively use it for this indication, driving demand spikes that may divert it away from patients who need it for bacterial infections.
Experts worry that the lack of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve symptoms could force parents to seek care for their children at urgent-care centers and emergency departments. "It's a huge problem," Kristina Powell, a Virginia pediatrician, told the Washington Post. "Parents run to Walmart or Target, the shelves are empty. … This is going to be a long fall and winter of viral infections."
Erin Fox, director of the University of Utah's Drug Information Service, which tracks medication shortages, told the Post that shortages of acetaminophen and ibuprofen were related to spikes in demand and should resolve "relatively quickly."
This is going to be a long fall and winter of viral infections.
But in Forbes, writer Joshua Cohen noted that drug shortages are a persistent problem in the United States and that there are no easy fixes. "There is no facile method to scale up production to meet periodic sharp increases in demand, like the one occurring at the moment," he said. "And there remains a limited profit motive to do so, particularly for low-cost generics."