The increasing shortage of a commonly used antibiotic, Tazocin, has raised concerns on an international scale – as healthcare professionals now have to switch to alternative medications or ration the usage of Tazocin, in order to prevent it from becoming unavailable completely.

Why the shortage may prove to be detrimental

Some reasons stipulated for the shortage of this antibiotic combination include a considerable increase in demand and delays in the manufacturing process. To compensate for these factors, time may be required before supply of this drug can be completely matched with its demand.

Healthcare professionals at an English Hospital were also informed that this shortage had arisen due to “an earthquake damaging the factory that produces much of the world’s raw ingredients for piperacillin-tazobactam”.

The governing authority in the United Kingdom responsible for overseeing most hospitals and general practices within the UK, the National Health Service (NHS), recently issued a statement saying that, “there is a high likelihood that in the near future piperacillin-tazobactam will not be available at all… This is a major challenge to our prescribing practice.”

If these antibiotics no longer available, it poses a major public health challenge as new, equally efficacious antibiotic combinations will have to be developed in order to combat specific infections.

Using alternative antibiotics to Tazocin poses additional problems, too. For instance, prescribing less potent antibiotics may require more frequent administration in order to elicit the same pharmacological effect. This requires more manpower in order to supervise that the antibiotic is being taken in a timely manner.

Antibiotics that are less efficacious are also shown to have undesirable side effects such as “kidney damage”. Another antibiotic known as meropenem is now the last resort for medical professionals. This is also an issue as there are increasing numbers of meropenem-resistant strains of bacteria, which means that meropenem is not likely to be as effective.

Implications of the shortage for countries

The shortage of Tazocin has initiated the rationing of this antibiotic by healthcare professionals in the UK. This can be concerning especially if the supply of the antibiotic is not sufficient to meet the demand, in the form of conditions such as diabetic infections localised to the foot.

Currently, usage of this antibiotic has only been approved for very serious conditions such as ventilator-acquired pneumonia and neutropenic sepsis, in which there are imminent risks of mortality. The drug will be withheld from use for conditions that are considered to be more innocuous in nature.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has been compelled to import pharmaceutical products from Canada, which have not fully been approved. As these drugs have not been approved and may not have been subjected to the same rigorous experimentation and scientific research as approved drugs, it raises concerns about their clinical efficacy.

Dr. Ronen Ben-Ami, acting director of Infectious Diseases at Ichilov Hospital in Israel, comments on the importance of this antibiotic combination, expressing that this drug is used “to treat lung infections in patients on respirators, pneumonia, infections caused by the use of catheters, urinary tract infections and more.”

He also states that this medication is particularly beneficial for “oncology patients who get infections after chemotherapy”. In the context of the multifarious uses of Tazocin, it is imperative to initiate new research for potential replacements of this antibiotic if the continuing shortage results in absolute unavailability of this drug. MIMS

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