Pfizer warns of penicillin shortage

Pfizer said the shortage of injectable penicillin products is due to a variety of factors including an increase in syphilis infection rates.
Pfizer logo on a building
Posted at 3:01 PM, Jun 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-16 15:01:11-04

Health care professionals need to prepare for a shortage of penicillin.

In a letter to doctors this week, Pfizer said it's facing a shortage of various injectable penicillin products it manufacturers, including prefilled syringes. 

"The supply interruption is the result of a complex combination of factors including significant increases in demand, due to an increase in syphilis infection rates as well as competitive shortages," the drug company stated in the letter. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were more than 175,000 cases of syphilis reported in 2021. The agency says that's a 74% increase since 2017. 

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A major concern is pregnant women passing on syphilis to their newborns. The CDC says there were nearly 2,900 cases of newborns with syphilis in 2021, a 203% increase since 2017. 

Health officials say a single injection of penicillin can cure the early stages of syphilis. 

Pfizer said it's prioritizing the manufacturing of the products to treat the sexually transmitted disease, but it doesn't expect to be fully recovered from the shortage until the second quarter of 2024.

In a report released this month about drug shortages, the FDA said it's working with manufacturers and other partners to "mitigate the impact of shortages that cannot be prevented."

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