Penicillin Shortages and Growing Concerns in the Czech Republic

Penicillin, a crucial antibiotic, is in short supply in the Czech Republic, causing growing concerns among healthcare professionals. Despite the arrival of over 200,000 packages of penicillin since the end of August, pharmacies are still struggling to meet the demand. Many pharmacies receive only a fraction of what they have ordered, leaving them worried about the coming weeks as colder weather and an increase in illnesses are expected.

According to the calculations by Jan Rohrbacher, the chairman of the Association of Large Distributors of Medicines, last week’s delivery of 52,000 packages should have meant 20 boxes per pharmacy. While the reality falls short of this ideal, it is still an improvement compared to earlier this year.

Pharmacists are relieved to finally have supplies of penicillin, including syrups for children, which have been scarce for months. However, the quantities received are still limited. Sometimes, pharmacies have received as few as six packages, highlighting the ongoing shortage.

Marek Hampel, the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of Pharmacy Owners, representing around 400 pharmacies, explains that the distribution of penicillin is still rationed, and pharmacies can’t order as much as they need. Some pharmacies have received only three or five packages, while others await their allocation.

The problem goes beyond the shortage of penicillin. Increased illness rates in certain regions are not adequately covered by the supply of medications in local pharmacies. With respiratory diseases on the rise, including COVID-19 and rhinoviruses, the situation is expected to worsen in the coming months.

Ladislav Dušek, the head of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, warns that models indicate a significant increase in infections, including influenza, as the autumn season progresses.

Pharmacists and healthcare professionals are concerned about penicillin’s lack of immediate availability, as bacterial respiratory infections often follow viral illnesses. They emphasize the importance of being prepared for the upcoming season.

The situation varies among pharmacies, with some receiving limited quantities of penicillin while others struggle to obtain any at all. Smaller, independent pharmacies face additional challenges competing with larger retailers and hospital pharmacies.

The Minister of Health, Vlastimil Válek, has promised an additional 175,000 packages of penicillin by the end of November. However, the uneven distribution remains a concern. Válek refers to a proposed amendment to the Medicines Act, currently being discussed in Parliament, which aims to ensure the supply of essential medications to all pharmacies facing shortages.

While patients are eager to secure their supplies of penicillin, it is essential to note that a prescription is still required. Obtaining antibiotics without a prescription is not a solution to the shortage.

The penicillin shortage in the Czech Republic results from production limitations, high illness rates, and pricing challenges. The issue was raised by physicians and infectious disease specialists earlier this year, as it contributed to limited access to essential medications.

To address the shortage, the maximum allowed price for a package of penicillin has been increased to 155.76 Czech koruna, resulting in higher patient co-payments. Patients now face potential co-payments of up to 120 Czech koruna, compared to the previous twenty koruna.

The shortage of penicillin in the Czech Republic highlights the need for better management of medication supplies and the importance of ensuring the availability of essential antibiotics for the population. The ongoing efforts to address the issue and proposed legislative changes aim to prevent future shortages and ensure the timely distribution of medications to all pharmacies across the country.