Amoxicillin, an antibiotic commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, respiratory infections and strep throat, is in short supply, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA has assigned “currently in shortage” status to oral powder for suspension amoxicillin. Most of the products in short supply are the powder form of amoxicillin which is mixed with water at pharmacies to become a liquid formulation of the drug, which is often used to treat young children, the agency reports.

While there is a shortage of amoxicillin as winter looms and cold and flu season kicks into gear, officials say other treatments are available and most common infections in young children are viral, which do not require antibiotics.

Amoxicillin alternatives

For young children who develop ear infections or urinary tract infections, for which amoxicillin is often prescribed, there are other suitable, effective antibiotics, experts say.

If a child is able to swallow pills, that form of amoxicillin may be available, although the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists has also posted on its website a list of the various oral amoxicillin products that are currently in short supply. The list includes oral powder for suspension, tablets, chewable tablets and capsules.

Health care providers will be aware of suitable alternatives depending on the bacteria causing the infection.  

According to prevention.com, the right swap “depends on what you are treating,” said Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

“For pneumonia, you could potentially use azithromycin,” Alan said. “For ear infections, you can use a related medication like cefdinir or amoxicillin and clavulanic acid (Augmentin).”

Why is there an amoxicillin shortage?

It’s unclear. According to prevention.com, several pharmaceutical companies that have reported amoxicillin shortages and the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists noted that they didn’t provide a reason for the lack of supply.

But amoxicillin has “become restricted in the supply chain due to increased use,” said Stephanie Field, director of pharmacy business services at Corewell Health West. Meaning, demand for the drug has ramped up as a slew of illnesses circulate, prevention.com reported.

Are there amoxicillin shortages elsewhere?

The United States is not the only country experiencing this shortage, prevention.com reported.

Shortages have also been reported in CanadaIreland and Australia. Australian government officials attribute the shortage to an “unexpected increase in consumer demand” as well as “manufacturing.”