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ABC News

AMA calls for medication plan amid amoxicillin antibiotic shortage

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says there needs to be a national medication plan to deal with what it calls an "intolerable" and "potentially fatal" amoxicillin shortage.

Pharmacists across Australia are having trouble securing medication such as amoxicillin and other antibiotics due to supply chain issues.

The shortage coincides with a jump in streptococcus A throat cases in children and the re-emergence of the primarily dormant scarlet fever.

AMA national president Steve Robson said it was a dire situation.

"It's extraordinary that in 2023 we find ourselves short of a fundamental antibiotic that's been around since the Second World War," he said.

"In the middle of the last century, simple things like an injury gardening could potentially be fatal.

"It's extraordinary to see, in 2023, that the infections that we thought were part of the history books, and now are coming back, and we can't treat them."

Pharmacists resort to WhatsApp

In the New South Wales Hunter region supplies are so scarce pharmacists are using a WhatsApp group to match families with supplies.

In some cases as few as two bottles of amoxicillin liquid have been available in Newcastle at any one time.

"It's really important that we see a national plan so we don't find ourselves in the situation where strep A infections, which ought to be a simple thing to treat, [have left us] having to rely on WhatsApp groups for pharmacists," Dr Robson said.

The compounding of amoxicillin has also been ramped up under national drug scarcity protocols.

Dr Robson said now was the time for a national plan.

"It may be a combination of securing supply chains, national stockpiles, and potentially the capability in Australia, of manufacturing some of these medications," he said.

"Because a situation like this is just intolerable."

Government pledges to act

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the government had a plan to shore up supplies.

"Resilient supply chains are a priority of the Australian government and we should make as much as we can of our critical medical supplies here in Australia," he said in a statement.

"The government is committed to increasing Australia's sovereign manufacturing capacity in medical essentials through the establishment of the $15-billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF).

"The NRF will make medical technology one of its priorities and work with the Future Made in Australia Office to develop a national investment plan for health care essentials, which will identify what needs to be made in Australia and how to make that happen."

Dr Robson says action cannot be taken soon enough.

"It's really time for us to have a national plan to deal with this so [that] going forward, we're not going back to the time of the last century," he said.

Forty-six medications are listed as being in critically short supply on the Department of Health website.

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