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Drug shortages may impact veterinary and producer decisions

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Antibiotic use plays a major role in the judicious treatment of livestock disease. And, while pressure has been mounting to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock production, veterinarians and producers have been faced with decreased supply chains, most recently including the first-line antibiotic amoxicillin.  

Similarly, penicillin has been absent from many shelves for months, and farmers have been forced to recalculate feed rations based on the availability of products such as the amino acid lysine. For a while, Ivermectin was in short supply. In the meantime, common NSAIDs such as phenylbutazone (used in horses, but not other livestock) and depo-medrol have been on regular backorder. Supply-chain disruptions and medical shortages continue to reflect competition for raw materials since the pandemic. 

Now, amoxicillin’s antibiotic powder form, which is used to create a suspension is getting harder to find. The drug is used in production agriculture to treat skin and respiratory infections including systemic infections in swine. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration listed amoxicillin oral solution in its drug shortage database, which has some veterinarians concerned about availability, while backorders are a normal inconvenience. 

However, the FDA has not yet listed amoxicillin in the current animal drug shortages, which notes what the agency considers a Medically Necessary Veterinary Product. In 2021, two types of melarsomine (a heartworm treatment) and three penicillin G-related products hit the shortage list due to supply chain disruptions and ingredient unavailability. 

While the knee-jerk reaction to shortages may be to stock up, supply chain issues in pharmaceuticals are actually nothing new though pandemics and war may compound the issue.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois recommends that veterinarians stay in contact with supplying pharmacies and distributors to keep tabs on potential supply issues. Veterinarians can also check backorder lists and make recommendations based on availability and other products that may be appropriate to prescribe if the drug of choice is not available. 

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