Doctors concerned over antibiotic shortage

Australia’s peak medical body is calling on the federal government to consider onshore antibiotic manufacturing amid supply shortages across the country.

More than 300 medications are in short supply, particularly treatments for strep throat and liquid antibiotics used for children.

Adele Tahan from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said antibiotic shipments had been tied up with overseas manufacturers.

“There are quite a significant number of antibiotics that are in short supply and they will remain so for quite some time,” Ms Tahan told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“Ninety per cent of Australian medications are from overseas.”

While the situation is not yet critical, it could mean infections go untreated while patients jump between pharmacies searching for the correct antibiotics, Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson said.

“It’s always concerning when you have young children affected by infection,” Professor Robson said.

“Of course, sometimes it means they end up in hospital or that infections go untreated while people look for antibiotics.”

The AMA said the federal government should consider manufacturing more medications in Australia as both a strong market opportunity and health safeguard.

“We’re politically stable and have lots of great minds here, good logistic chains, and maybe it’s time for the government to think about making these drugs here,” Prof Robson said.

The association has long advocated for local manufacturing, but Prof Robson said it would be on the agenda at his next meeting with Health Minister Mark Butler.

“We sit in a region where there is a huge market who would probably envy our capacity to manufacture,” he said.

Last month, the Therapeutic Goods Administration alerted pharmacists that amoxicillin, cefalexin and metronidazole were in short supply.

Penicillin powder, typically used to make liquid antibiotics for children, was listed as unavailable on the TGA website on Tuesday.

The shortage has worried doctors as the country faces a surge in children’s strep throat cases, with penicillin and amoxicillin the treatment drugs of choice.

Pharmacists say they are being forced to give smaller or less effective doses to patients.

“I have been able to supply patients in a very small amount,” Ms Tahan said.

“It’s quite serious when a patient, especially a child, requires a particular antibiotic with a particular dose for a specific infection.”


Neve Brissenden
(Australian Associated Press)


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