AHF Lauds U. S. Representative Wasserman Schultz for Pressing FDA on Key Syphilis Drug Shortage

Amid rising national syphilis rates, Florida Congresswoman calls on FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to address Pfizer’s multiple manufacturing delays and stockouts of Bicillin L-A (Penicillin G benzathine), the preferred medication used to treat syphilis

WASHINGTON (August 31, 2017) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, applauded Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FA-23) today for sending a letter to U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to call on the agency to address constant drug shortages and stockouts of Bicillin L-A (Penicillin G benzathine), the preferred medication used to treat syphilis and the only treatment recommended by the CDC for pregnant women with the infection.

Pfizer, the sole manufacturer of Bicillin L-A in the United States, has been unable to meet the growing medical demand through constant manufacturing delays and multiple stockouts of the treatment over the past year, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health agencies reporting national increases in syphilis cases. In April, the CDC noted an estimated 33% increase of infectious syphilis cases from 2014-2016.

In the letter dated August 29th, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz writes, “This shortage is keeping this critical medication out of reach for patients in South Florida and is an impediment to the control of sexually transmitted infections in our community. The Florida Department of Health has warned that syphilis rates are still increasing among men, women, and babies, and my constituents stand to suffer if the shortage of this drug continues.” Among 50 metropolitan areas included in the CDC’s most recent report on STD surveillance, Miami-Fort Lauderdale had the nation’s fourth-highest rate of syphilis with 14.1 cases per 100,000 people – after New Orleans, Atlanta and San Francisco.

Read the full text of the letter here.

“Pfizer, which has the exclusive patent on Bicillin L-A, is the third largest drug company in the world, with more than $50 billion in revenue reported in 2016.  Yet, somehow this American pharmaceutical powerhouse has been unable or unwilling to prepare for, and/or meet the demand by medical providers, pharmacies—and patients—for its syphilis medication for nearly the entire past year,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein.  “Given the alarming rise in syphilis rates across the country, we need to keep pressure on public health officials to push Pfizer to produce sufficient quantities of the medication needed to address the syphilis epidemic. We are grateful for Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz taking the initiative to help address this growing health threat.”

For several years, AHF has been sounding the alarm on the rising rates of syphilis and other STDs through its outdoor advertising campaigns, including its ‘Syphilis Explosion’ billboards that made headlines around the world. In May, health advocates from AHF and other groups took to the streets in Manhattan to protest in front of Pfizer’s New York City corporate headquarters to draw attention to the drug company’s third drug stockout of Bicillin L-A in less than one year.

As a follow up to AHF’s groundbreaking “Syphilis Explosion” outdoor advertising campaign, the “Syphilis Tsunami” billboards will appear in Los Angeles, CA; Oakland, CA; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Chicago, IL; Atlanta, GA; Miami, FL and Columbus, OH.  The outdoor campaign will be complemented by a digital media campaign to draw attention to the national syphilis epidemic and to put pressure on Pfizer to supply Bicillin L-A in quantities that meets the growing demand for treatment.

To find locations for free STD/HIV screening, visit www.freestdcheck.org