AHF: Key Syphilis Medication In Short Supply Despite Increase in Infections

Pregnant women with syphilis at particular risk of passing infection to newborns if needed Pfizer medication Bicillin L-A is not available

LOS ANGELES (June 21, 2016) As reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases continue to rise across the U.S., biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. recently issued alerts to health agencies that a manufacturing delay of Bicillin L-A, the only brand of penicillin recommended to treat syphilis in pregnant women will cause temporary shortages of the injectable medication, according to a Los Angeles Daily News article on the shortage. In publicly released statements, Pfizer says it is allocating shipments to last through the end of the month and will ship only 30% of normal monthly demand into the supply chain to help prevent a stock-out.

“With syphilis on the rise nationwide, our medical providers are struggling to have enough supply to provide the necessary treatment to infected patients. The allocations by Pfizer are not sufficient to meet growing demand,” said Scott Carruthers, Senior Manager and Chief Pharmacy Officer for AHF and the AHF Pharmacy network. “We hope this shortage will be as temporary as Pfizer suggests; alternative therapies are less effective in most cases due to patient adherence issues and tend not to curtail the disease as quickly as injection. This shortage particularly places pregnant women at risk, as Bicillin L-A is the only medical treatment recommended for pregnant women with syphilis and Pfizer has the exclusive patent on the medication.”
According to the California Department of Public Health, the annual number of reported syphilis cases among women more than doubled from 248 cases to 594 from 2012 to 2014. Reported cases of congenital syphilis, which occurs when a woman transmits the infection to her fetus during pregnancy, tripled during the same time period. The $122.5 billion state budget approved last week by California lawmakers included $5 million for efforts by the Department of Public Health to prevent sexually transmitted disease prevention efforts.

According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates, there are 20 million new STD infections each year in the United States, costing the healthcare system nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs. The agency also reports more than 110 million current cases of sexually transmitted infections in U.S. men and women.