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Alternative antibiotic to treat Strep A gets green light after weeks of ‘shortages’

PHARMACISTS can now prescribe an alternative to penicillin in order to treat Strep A.

It comes after pharmacies across the UK have complained that they couldn’t get the treatment due to increased demand.

This afternoon, Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) have been issued across the country for three penicillin medicines to treat Strep A

At least 17 children are confirmed or suspected to have died of Strep A since September.

Last week, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said 16 children have died from the illness.

Public Health Wales and Powys Teaching Health Board are investigating whether the death of another child is linked to an invasive Strep A infection, if confirmed, it will bring the total to 17.

Parents have told of how they have been unable to get the medication they need, whilst pharmacists have also told of shortages.

The Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, previously said there were no long-term supply issues.

However he had admitted that there could be shortages while stock was moved around.

This afternoon, Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) have been issued across the country for three penicillin medicines.

The Department of Health and Social Care today said the Government is taking ‘decisive action’ to support access to medication while demand is high.

SSPs is a standard procedure and is used to help even out shortages in medicines.

It allows pharmacists to legally supply specific alternatives – removing the need for patients to go back to their GP.

Usually, if a patient hands a prescription over, pharmacists can only supply what is on the prescription.

If it’s not available they will be sent back to the GP for an alternative.

But the SPP changes this, in light of increased demand for penicillion.

It’s used to treat Strep A and scarlet fever, and the Government said increased demand means that some pharmacists are experiencing temporary and localised supply issues and may not have the specific formulation listed on the prescription.

There are various versions of penicillin – liquid, sugar-free liquid, and tablet.

If the prescribed version is not available, pharmacists can prescribe the below:

  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution sugar free
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5ml oral solution sugar free

GPs had previously been told to lower the threshold for prescribing antibiotics to kids presenting with symptoms of group A strep – meaning more kids are being prescribed the drugs.

This follows a sharp decline in demand for the medicines during the Covid-19 pandemic, when people were not mixing or seeing GPs.

Minister of State for Health Will Quince said: “The increased demand for the antibiotics prescribed to treat Strep A has meant some pharmacists have been unable to supply the medicine shown on the prescription.

“These Serious Shortage Protocols will allow pharmacists to supply an alternative form of penicillin, which will make things easier for them, patients, and GPs.

“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 speed up deliveries, bring forward stock they have to help ensure it gets to where it’s needed, and boost supply to meet demand as quickly as possible.”

Other SSPs that are currently active include those in place for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

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