Katie Casas’s 9-year-old son had already spent two weeks feverishly suffering from the flu when his ear started to ache.

Casas took him to his pediatrician last week who diagnosed him with an ear infection and prescribed amoxicillin, the usually popular antibiotic. The doctor sent a prescription to a nearby pharmacy.

This time, however, the pharmacy had no medicine at hand. Like pharmacies across the country, she ended up forcing Casas to go elsewhere.

“It’s one thing to tell an adult to hold back, but children feel so terrible with them when they’re sick,” said Casas of Highland Park. “It should be something very simple and accessible. It shouldn’t be hard to come by.

Among the annual product shortages, the newest hard-to-find product is amoxicillin. Tight supply in the Chicago area has caused some parents to go from dr*gstores to dr*gstores looking for dr*gs and asking doctors to prescribe alternatives.

In general, you can still find the drug in some pharmacies or get an alternative prescription, doctors say. But it can be troublesome. Amoxicillin is often the first choice of doctors for conditions such as ear infections, tonsillitis and pneumonia because of its effectiveness and few side effects.

“It’s difficult when your child is sick and needs an antibiotic and you have to go to two or three pharmacies or are delayed while your doctor and pharmacy are looking for an alternative,” said Dr. Julie Holland, vice president of primary care for Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance. “Parents don’t want to spend several hours calling an office (doctor) or pharmacy and getting a different prescription when they have a sick child at home.”

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration listed the amoxicillin powder used to make the liquid version of the drug as insufficient. The American Society of Healthcare System Pharmacists also listed some amoxicillin capsules and tablets as missing. Typically, adults take tablets and capsules while children rely on the powder used to make up the oral suspension, which is a liquid.

Increased demand is listed as the main cause of amoxicillin powder deficiency on the FDA website.

It is possible that demand is high due to the nationwide increase in respiratory disease among children, doctors say. In recent months, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and other respiratory diseases have increased among children, filling children’s hospitals in the Chicago area and elsewhere.

Amoxicillin is not used to treat these respiratory viruses, but these viruses can sometimes lead to secondary infections such as ear infections and pneumonia that require amoxicillin or other antibiotics.

“We often see a child who becomes infected with the virus and then gets a secondary bacterial infection,” said Holland.

To deal with the deficiency, the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance is working to provide pediatricians with knowledge of alternatives to amoxicillin, such as Augmentin, which is a combination of amoxicillin and another antibiotic, and cephalosporins, which are another class of antibiotics, The Netherlands said.

The pharmacy at Rush University Medical Center also took steps to address this shortage, after noticing that its amoxicillin powder stocks were declining about a week and a half ago, said Jessica Jacobson, a clinical pharmacy specialist in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. .

“This drug is a drug that we use quite often in our pediatric population,” said Jacobson. “We got together and came up with a plan to work and save our deliveries.”

This plan is to try to limit the liquid version of amoxicillin to pediatric hospital patients while asking adult patients to take the capsules.

The hospital pharmacy now also uses a liquid version of the drug with a lower concentration. This means that the patient may need to swallow more medicine to get the same amount of amoxicillin. The hospital usually stores pre-filled amoxicillin syringes in the emergency department to give doctors and nurses easier access to them, but for now has stopped doing so to save doses, Jacobson said.

Dr Nina Alfieri, a doctor in charge of advanced general pediatrics at Lurie Children’s, said she hadn’t seen a deficiency affect her patients yet – but doctors are prepared.

“I don’t want parents to ever think because of this deficiency that their child will just sit there with a bacterial infection and not get what they need,” she said.

He also encourages parents to make sure their children are up to date with their immunizations, including flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. While amoxicillin cannot be used to treat flu or COVID-19, preventing these diseases could help families avoid the bacterial infections that can sometimes occur, she said.

Casas, whose 9-year-old fell ill this month, was able to find amoxicillin to treat an ear infection at another pharmacy after the first one called her to say it, and others on the same network were unavailable. She feels happy that she didn’t have to wait long for her son’s medicine. He has been feeling better since then and went back to school, she said.

“When they are needed, they are absolutely necessary,” she said of antibiotics. “They are necessary”.

lschencker@chicagotribune.com

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