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Strep A kills three more children as UK activates alternative medicines plan

Three more children have died from strep A, it has emerged, and pharmacists in the UK have been told they can supply alternative antibiotics to those originally prescribed, in a bid to ease shortages of certain forms of penicillin.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows at least 19 children have now died across the UK, while there are 7,750 cases of scarlet fever so far this season. This is more than treble the 2,538 at the same point in the year during the last comparably high season in 2017 to 2018.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has issued serious shortage protocols (SSPs) for three penicillin medicines amid increased demand for the antibiotics.

Pharmacists and GPs in the UK have faced serious difficulties in securing supplies of penicillin and amoxycillin, antibiotics used to treat infections including strep A. As a result, parents have reported having to visit a string of pharmacies to obtain medicines prescribed for their sick children, while the price of some antibiotics has risen sharply – a situation pharmacists say has left them facing losses.

The health minister 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.”

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Source: The Guardian, 15 December 2022


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