Local shortages of antibiotics for strep are being reported in Britain

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There are increasing reports from pharmacists that they cannot order enough penicillin in its liquid form due to shortages in wholesalers’ warehouses.

Reporting: Thanasis Gavos

England’s chief pharmaceutical officer admitted that some local pharmacies have lack of of the antibiotic drugs needed to treat strep A infections, amid an increase in cases mainly in children and the elderly.

David Webb, who has responsibility for co-ordinating drug policy in England, added however that overall stocks of penicillin, which is the basis of the required antibiotic, are sufficient.

“Local pharmacies may experience a temporary stoppage of some related antibiotics due to increased demand. Nationally, there is adequate provision for the NHS,” Mr Webb said.

A spokesman for the British Department of Health said that there is cooperation with drug manufacturers and wholesalers to speed up deliveries to pharmacies.

At the same time, however, the number of references from pharmacists that they cannot order enough penicillin in its liquid form because of a shortage in wholesalers’ warehouses.

The concern over the adequacy of the drugs comes as the UK’s Health Protection Agency announced on Thursday that 15 children have now been confirmed to have died across the country from a severe infection with the bacteria since September.

Also mentioned were deaths of 47 adults in the same period, only in England.

From the beginning of September to the beginning of December confirmed cases of scarlet fever, that is, of the relatively mild manifestation of strep A, was 4,622 in the United Kingdom. This is a tally almost four times higher than the corresponding period in recent years.

Cases of the more serious strep A infection, known as iGAS, were 652 in the same period.

Strep infections in Britain usually begin to increase at the end of each year and peak in the spring.

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