Some antibiotics in short supply due to 'perfect storm' of respiratory illnesses

Experts say the flu season came early and it's been vicious. RSV and COVID-19 are still spreading too.

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Some antibiotics in short supply as respiratory illnesses spread
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With some antibiotics in short supply, the CDC is asking physicians to only order the drug for the patient if it's known to be needed and avoid "just in case" prescriptions.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A "perfect storm" of respiratory illnesses is hitting the nation and could mean a difficult holiday season, according to the CDC.

Experts say the flu season came early and it's been vicious. RSV and COVID-19 are still spreading too, causing a strain on hospitals and making some medicines in short supply.

At Parkway Pharmacy in Fairmount, the staff is keeping stock of drugs high in demand. The pharmacy's owner says he has patients coming in from all over the city and suburbs asking for medicine.

"People are calling us 20-30 minutes away because we've been advertising we have these medications in stock. When we can't get it direct from the manufacturer, we're been able to compound it also," said pharmacy owner Dennis Czerw.

He's referring to amoxicillin; it's one of 11 antibiotics the FDA says is in short supply. Specifically, distributors are having difficulty getting a hold of the liquid type often used to treat kids.

"Usually, we're scraping through where we can at least get people started or it's allocated where we can get one a day or something like that," said Kourtney Chichilitti, another pharmacist at the store.

The pharmacy is also seeing high demand for flu shots, testing, and medications like Tamiflu, which treats viral infections.

The CDC says the flu is running rampant for the first time since the pandemic. It's reporting nearly 8.7 million recorded illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 flu deaths so far this year. And COVID-19 and RSV continue to spread too.

"We just came off the holidays and a lot of people have done things they haven't done for the past two years," said Dr. Harshila Kakkilya, a primary care physician at ChristianaCare Primary Care at Woodstown.

Some examples include gathering in large crowds and going in public mask free. As people reach for normalcy, doctors say there is still a simple way to protect yourself.

"First and foremost, I would say get vaccinated. We have vaccinations for all the most important infections we see this time of the year," said Dr. Kakkilya.

During this wave of respiratory illnesses, the CDC stressed a call out for doctors as well to practice responsible prescribing. With some antibiotics in short supply, the CDC is asking physicians to only order the drug for the patient if it's known to be needed and avoid "just in case" prescriptions.