Three more children have died of strep A, it has emerged, and pharmacists across the UK have been told they can supply alternative antibiotics to those originally prescribed, in a bid to ease shortages of some forms of penicillin.
Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that at least 19 children have now died across the UK, while there are 7,750 cases of scarlet fever so far this season. That’s more than triple the 2,538 at the same time of year in the relatively high last season of 2017-18.
However, the increase in notifications came at a different time that year. From 2017 to 2018, there were 30,768 scarlet fever notifications in total.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has released Severe Shortage Protocols (SSPs) for three penicillin drugs amid increased demand for antibiotics.
Pharmacists and GPs in the UK have had serious difficulty getting supplies of penicillin and amoxicillin, antibiotics used to treat infections including strep A. As a result, parents have reported having to go to a series of pharmacies to get prescribed drugs for their sick children, while the price of some antibiotics has risen sharply – a situation which pharmacists say has left them facing losses.
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has previously said there is no shortage of antibiotics and stocks can be moved if areas run into supply problems.
However, on Monday the DHSC, which Barclay oversees, issued a supply warning for certain antibiotics used to treat infections such as strep A.
UKHSA chief medical adviser Professor Susan Hopkins told a webinar hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine on Wednesday that there had been a substantial increase in demand for certain antibiotics.
“I have been told in the past few days that we are using five times more penicillin than three weeks ago,” she said, adding that while there “may be profiteers behind the doors “It doesn’t would not affect patients.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the Competition and Markets Authority would look into rising antibiotic costs.
PHC eliminates the need for a patient to return to their prescriber for a new prescription if a particular medication is not available. Instead, pharmacists can legally issue a specified alternative.
It is hoped this will make it easier for patients to get the medicines they need, while saving GPs time.
The new SSPs, classified as active until January 31, apply to three drugs: phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml sugar-free oral solution, phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution and phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5ml sugar-free oral solution.
According to the DHSC, there are nine other PHCs currently active, many of which are hormone replacement therapy drugs.
Health Minister Will Quince said: ‘Increased demand for antibiotics prescribed to treat Strep A has meant some pharmacists have been unable to supply the medicine listed on the prescription.
“These severe shortage protocols will allow pharmacists to provide an alternative form of penicillin, making it easier for them, patients and GPs alike.
“We are taking decisive action to address these temporary issues and improve access to these medicines by continuing to work with manufacturers and wholesalers to expedite deliveries, advance the inventory they have to ensure they get to where they are needed and increase supply to meet request as soon as possible.
Speaking on Wednesday, Hopkins added that a “deep dive” was underway among those who had been seriously ill with strep A.
“We know that, for example, about a third of invasive cases had another respiratory virus detected at the same time,” she said, noting that co-infection may have meant the bacteria were more susceptible to infection. enter the lungs. and cause a serious problem. But she added: “That’s speculation at the moment.”
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