Patients face ‘toxic’ risk amid antibiotics crisis
DOCTORS fear hundreds of thousands of patients with chest, stomach and blood infections - and many on cancer and transplant treatment - face a "toxic" risk under an antibiotic shortage.
Hospitals and pharmacies are out of stock and scrambling for options to fill scripts with as many as 200,000 sick Australians on a waiting list for one product alone because of a six-month delay in supply.
Doctors exclusively told The Courier-Mail they are forced to resort to more toxic, less potent, and costlier options that may lead to increasing pressure on health care from antibiotic-resistant "superbugs".
Drug giants blame rival companies, manufacturing issues and unprecedented demand for the shortages but some drug suppliers say it is "all about money".
"It's a chronic problem,'' Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Zappala said.
"Patients' lives are put at this toxic risk,'' the Brisbane-based specialist said. "And what was a small number of deaths is on the increase from superbugs.''
The AMA urges a federal summit to guarantee supply and push for "non-profit driven" development of new antibiotics.
"It's not completely clear why we have these shortages, everyone blames everyone else, and it's hard to know the real truth of it,'' Dr Zappala said.
"But the investment in new antibiotics is parlous and there's nothing on the horizon in drug development.''
Australia's biggest drug manufacturer Mylan, with a plant employing 550 people at Carole Park in Brisbane, has doubled production of Resprim after Big Pharma company Roche discontinued its Bactrim tablets.
"The demand for Resprim has more than doubled recently as a result of various competitor supply challenges and discontinuations," Robyn Ronai, of Mylan Australia, said.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration confirmed the nationwide shortage of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim products, branded as Bactrim, Septrim or Resprim, known as the antibiotic of choice if stranded on a deserted island.
"The TGA has been notified of shortages and has granted approval for alternative products," a spokesman said.
Medisurge Health founder Kam Phulwani has been approved by the TGA to find alternative products and has a waiting list for half a million boxes of tablets.
"It's going crazy with all the pharmacies out-of-stock,'' Mr Phulwani said. "How can we help them fill the script? It's very challenging. Some of these big drug companies don't care about patient care, just market share, it's all about money."