Commonly used medicines are essential, but not profitable for companies, expert says
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, April 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Shortages of antibiotics, including those used to treat drug-resistant infections, may be putting patients at risk for sickness and death, according to a new report.
Between 2001 and 2013, there were shortages of 148 antibiotics. And the shortages started getting worse in 2007, researchers found.
"Many of the drug shortages were among the only drugs to treat a particular condition, drugs to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and drugs used to treat children," said lead researcher Dr. Larissa May, an associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
"When these drugs are not available, patients may not get the best care, or even die," she said. "If something isn't done, there may be big impacts on health care."
In the study, nearly half the shortages were for antibiotics needed to treat severe infections, including Clostridium difficile, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.
C. difficile can be picked up in hospitals and doctors' offices, and in 2011 the bacteria was to blame for 500,000 infections and 29,000 deaths. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that infects some 78,000 people a year and can also be deadly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of the shortages were of broad-spectrum antibiotics -- injectable drugs for which there were no alternative manufacturers. Moreover, shortages were common among antibiotics used to treat children. Among these drugs, there were few alternatives doctors could turn to, the researchers found.
"Gold-standard" therapies, such as aztreonam, which is used to treat serious infections in patients allergic to penicillin, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, used to treat pneumocystis pneumonia, were also in short supply during the study period, the findings showed.
May said a variety of factors account for these shortages. Among these are delays or problems with making a drug, including a shortage of raw materials. In addition, when a drug isn't used often, though it is essential for some patients, manufacturers may delay or stop making it, she explained.
source : Antibiotic Shortages On the Rise in U.S.