NEWS

Popular Antibiotic Amoxicillin Facing Shortage Heading Into Winter Months

A mother gives her toddler liquid medicine via syringe while sitting at the kitchen table together.

filadendron / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Three of the four top manufacturers of amoxicillin are reporting a lower-than-usual supply of the popular antibiotic amoxicillin.
  • The shortage is likely being caused by manufacturing difficulties and increased demand due to flu and RSV seasons.
  • Most parents will still be able to find amoxicillin, and alternative antibiotics are readily available.

If you're a parent, chances are your child has been prescribed amoxicillin at some point. It's the most common antibiotic on the market. But right now, there's a low supply across the country. On October 17, 2022, CVS went public with the shortage at pharmacies in Massachusetts. But it isn't the only state affected.

Most of the products in short supply are liquid forms, which is what is typically used for children. If you’re seeing the news of the nationwide shortage, you may be feeling concerned about what medications are available should your kid come home from daycare or school sick.

What is Amoxicillin Used For?

Amoxicillin is the go-to for so many pediatricians. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists amoxicillin as the first medication for infections in children.

“Amoxicillin is used to treat infections that are caused by bacteria,” says Rebekah Wrenn, PharmD, an infectious diseases clinical pharmacist at Duke University Hospital. “In children, some of the most common infections treated with amoxicillin are ear infections, strep throat, and pneumonia.”

“Amoxicillin has great activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is the big bad bacteria behind most pediatric infections, like pneumonia, sinus infections, and ear infections, which is why it’s so frequently used,” says Michael Bozzella, DO, an infectious disease attending physician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“In addition to it covering common bacteria, it’s also relatively affordable, available as a generic, and comes in a lot of formulations," Dr. Bozzella adds. "We know it’s one we can reach for that can be flavored so it’s more palatable to get down the throats of our little ones.”

We know it’s one we can reach for that can be flavored so it’s more palatable to get down the throats of our little ones.

MICHAEL BOZZELLA, DO

Why is There a Shortage Of Amoxicillin?

At present, the shortage has not yet been recognized or logged in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s drug shortage database. However, three of the top four amoxicillin manufacturers in the U.S. are reporting short supplies, citing “demand swings, manufacturing capacity constraints, scarcity of raw materials,” Bloomberg reported.

Dr. Bozzella says there’s no way to know exactly what the cause is right now, but that shortages are generally due to a combination of supply chain issues and high demand. That demand is certainly up right now. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season runs through fall and winter. At the same time, the CDC reports an unusually high number of flu cases already for 2022. Viral illnesses can occupy the immune system, making children more susceptible to secondary infections, which are often treated with antibiotics like amoxicillin.

What Should You Do If Your Child is Prescribed Amoxicillin?

If your pediatrician prescribes your child amoxicillin, ask them if they’ve heard of any shortages in your area, or know which pharmacies have had it in stock lately. You can also discuss what to do next if you’re unable to find any, like calling back for a prescription for an alternative medication.

“There are alternative medications. I would still encourage families who get a prescription for amoxicillin to either ask their pediatrician if this or that pharmacy has it in stock, because they often have a good sense of what’s in stock. You can also call your pharmacy ahead of time and ask,” Dr. Bozzella says.

“If your child is prescribed amoxicillin, you should contact your pharmacy to ensure they have the medication in stock,” says Gene Rhea, PharmD, associate chief pharmacy officer at Duke University Hospital. “While supplies are low, many pharmacies do have amoxicillin in stock but that may change frequently. Your prescription can be transferred to another pharmacy if supply is not available.”

What Are the Alternatives to Amoxicillin?

The good news is there are plenty of other antibiotics that can take amoxicillin’s place should your child get sick. This includes medications like Augmentin, Cephalexin, and Bactrim, according to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Which kind your child’s doctor chooses will depend on what type of infection they have.

“There are other liquid antibiotics available which are not in shortage, including ones that contain amoxicillin in combination with another drug called clavulanic acid,” Dr. Rhea says. “Your pharmacist can work with your medical provider to determine what the best alternative antibiotic is if amoxicillin is unable to be located.”

Your pharmacist can work with your medical provider to determine what the best alternative antibiotic is if amoxicillin is unable to be located.

GENE RHEA, PHARMD

But Dr. Bozzella says that combination, known as Augmentin, can have more side effects. “It’s a little broader in spectrum so you may be more likely to see diarrhea, but it still treats those common bacteria really well,” he says.

Dr. Bozzella adds that amoxicillin is great at targeting the specific bacteria that cause infections while leaving good bacteria alone. That leads to less stomach upset and antibiotic-associated diarrhea for little ones. That’s why amoxicillin might normally be prescribed instead.

Why Are Pharmacies Running Out of Medication?

If it seems like you’re hearing about medication shortages more often lately, you’re not wrong. There’s currently a nationwide shortage of Adderall too. So, what’s going on?

“Generally, these shortages are caused by increased demand and manufacturing difficulties,” says Dr. Rhea. “Drug shortages have been ongoing for several years but do not always reach patients.”

Dr. Bozzella notes that parents with children who are hospitalized for infections should not let news of the shortage distress them.

“Yes, we are in this shortage, but especially in our hospitals, we are always trying to make sure we have these medications in stock, and we figure out contingency plans very quickly. We can still deliver a very high and unified standard of care for patients.”

What This Means For You

If your child is prescribed amoxicillin, you will likely be able to find it at a nearby pharmacy, though you may need to check in with a few places ahead of time. It’s OK to ask your child’s pediatrician if they know which pharmacies have the medication in stock, and whether you can call back for an alternative prescription should you need one. Your child may need a different antibiotic than usual, but they will still get an appropriate medication and feel better despite the shortage.

9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Drug Shortage Database.

  2. University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Doctors, pharmacists coping with amoxicillin shortage.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatric Outpatient Treatment Recommendations

  4. Huttner A, Bielicki J, Clements MN, et al. Oral amoxicillin and amoxicillin–clavulanic acid: properties, indications and usageClinical Microbiology and Infection. 2020;26(7):871-879. doi:10.1016/j.cmi.2019.11.028

  5. U.S Food & Drug Administration. FDA Drug Shortages.

  6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV).

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza (flu).

  8. Medline Plus. Secondary Infections.

  9. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Antibiotic Recommendations For Outpatients During Amoxicillin 400 mg/5 mL Suspension Shortage.