Alert raised over shortages of antibiotics in pharmacies in France

Suppliers told to release reserve stocks to ensure even supply of amoxicillin

Suppliers have been told to immediately deploy the ‘majority of their reserves’ to ensure that the drug is distributed evenly to pharmacies
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Suppliers of the common antibiotic amoxicillin in France have been told to deploy their reserve stocks to pharmacies as the drug has become increasingly hard to find.

The French medicines agency ANSM said it gave the order for more stocks to be delivered on December 26.

“There have been significant problems arising from the distribution of amoxicillin and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid,” it told FranceInfo. “Access to the drugs is becoming very difficult for patients.”

Amoxicillin is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, including middle ear infection, strep throat, pneumonia, skin infections and urinary tract infections. It is frequently prescribed to children.

“The situation in pharmacies has continued to get worse, in particular for the drinkable forms of the drug that are used for paediatric care, despite suppliers declaring that they have sufficient stocks,” said ANSM.

In response, the medicines agency says it has told suppliers to immediately deploy the “majority of their reserves” to ensure that the drug is distributed evenly to pharmacies.

“Deliveries to wholesalers have already begun, and they will ensure the drug is distributed fairly around the country.”

Why is there an antibiotic shortage in France?

Antibiotic shortages have been an annual occurrence in recent years, particularly during the winter months.

In 2022, France’s annual drug shortage prompted ANSM to authorise 47 pharmacies to make their own drugs if necessary.

Previous article:

Medicine shortage: antibiotic stocks in France may be low until spring

The current shortage amoxicillin is due to several factors:

  • It is largely produced in Eastern Europe, which means that delivery to French supply hubs takes longer than for locally produced drugs
  • It is in high demand during the winter months due to the higher rate of chest inflections, due to illnesses such as bronchiolitis, which is currently at epidemic level in France
  • Only small stocks are held locally

“With amoxicillin there is a major paradox,” the president of the USPO pharmacists’ union, Pierre-Olivier Variot, told FranceInfo.

“ANSM tells us that manufacturers have between three and five months' stock, while wholesalers, who are the intermediaries between manufacturers and pharmacies, have no stock, and pharmacies have very, very variable stocks,” he said.

“So there is a big disparity in supply. It is not usual for manufacturers to hold stock. They need to be released as quickly as possible so that they can be delivered to pharmacies.”

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Shortages of 4,000 medicines in France; what risk for this winter?