National Coalition of STD Directors Warns of Bicillin L-A Shortage

Drug is the only medicine approved for use in infants with congenital syphilis
National Coalition of STD Directors Warns of Bicillin L-A Shortage
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MONDAY, Dec. 4, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- In a survey from the National Coalition of STD Directors conducted in early November, 46 percent of sexual health clinics said they had tried to order Bicillin L-A only to find that it was unavailable. This comes as syphilis cases surge across America.

Early in November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded the alarm on the disease, noting that rates of congenital syphilis soared 10-fold between 2012 and 2022. In 2022, more than 3,700 babies across the United States were born with syphilis, the CDC said.

Bicillin L-A is made by Pfizer Inc., which in June alerted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a shortage that the company predicts may last until mid-2024. The new survey confirms that Bicillin L-A is in short supply nationwide. The group sent its survey to 136 state and local health departments and 151 sexual health clinics in early November.

According to the results of the survey, respondents in 13 different states and one Indian Health Services agency said they had received reports of at least one pregnant woman who had been unable to receive Bicillin L-A; nearly half (46 percent) of clinics said they had had difficulties getting Bicillin L-A, a increase from the 40 percent of clinics who had not been able to access the drug when a prior survey was conducted in August; and more than two-thirds (68 percent) of health department specialists believe shortages will cause syphilis cases to rise even higher in their jurisdictions.

There is a second-line treatment, doxycycline, which patients can use if Bicillin L-A is not available. But treatment can take a month, and severe side effects can occur. In the new survey, 36 percent of clinics said they had had a patient who could not complete their full course of doxycycline. The CDC has already advised that to preserve supply, doctors use Bicillin L-A only for cases of congenital syphilis and give doxycycline to all other patients.

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