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Antibiotic Shortage in Ireland – the six month story

Antibiotic Shortage in Ireland – the six month story

What is this all about?

There is a lot of chat about the current antibiotic shortage in Ireland, in the media and amongst worried parents.  This is heightened of course by the potential risk for increased need due to the likely increase in Scarlet Fever cases.  The UK has seen a 4 fold increase of cases from week 37, and whilst scarlet fever is not a notifiable disease in Ireland (but is in the UK) and this can put additional strain on the antibiotic market.

It is worth noting that the levels of RSV and bronchiolitis circulating remain high and this is potentially a greater risk for an increased use of antibiotics due to a potential for the development of a secondary bacterial infection.

In a way it sounds like a perfect storm, during an already difficult Winter for children’s health.

There is nothing worse than panic without research other than panic without a plan.

The Facts

As a Pharmacist and mum who has worked with focus in the area of Children’s health for ten years and as a pharmacist for 17 years I wanted to prevent misinformation and hysteria. I reached out and got information from a senior executive within a large pharmaceutical company and can now provide an outlook on antibiotic supply in Ireland for the next six months.  I also propose solutions to the issue in light of the information in an effort to settle the chaos and move forward in a way that considers patient’s needs first.  Parent’s do not need, nor want to be frightened anymore by people creating panic without offering any solutions. As a parent and pharmacist myself I am acutely aware of this.

  • There are shortages across many lines of antibiotics in Ireland and will continue to be for the next six months.
  • There IS ENOUGH antibiotic supply available for normal and slightly increased requirements so long as we resolve to adapt to current supplies by giving an option of a 1st,2nd or even 3rd line option.  There is not adequate of any one particular antibiotic – but there is adequate from a choice of suitable antibiotics.
  • To reduce the burden on prescribing clinicians I propose that we introduce a system of interchangeable prescribing by GP’s  at pharmacy level.  This means if GP’s prescribe an antibiotic that pharmacists can supply the second or third line choice in accordance with any infections HSE prescribing guidelines without the requirement to request an alternative prescription.  Pharmacist’s cannot currently substitute one antibiotic drug for another – this situation requires this urgent change to prevent the breakdown of community care provision through an overburdened pharmacy and GP system.
  • I believe this should be supported by a Government campaign across all media forms to ask parents not to ask GP’s for prescriptions ‘just in case’.  If parents add additional unnecessary supply pressure to the system we will not have adequate supplies for a currently sick child when they need it.

Producing solutions to the challenges we face is what is in the patient’s best interest.  For the sake of parents all over Ireland who have had a very tough few years, can we please work together as there are clear pathways for us to successfully navigate this Winter as outlines above.


Please rest assured that there is enough supply to keep all sick babies well. Things you can do to help the pressured supply include:

  • Do not request a prescription for an antibiotic just incase.
  • Accept the fact that it won’t always be the antibiotic initially prescribed to you that you are given, this is not a problem for Strep infections, Strep is sensitive to several antibiotics.
  • Remain calm and do not add to a narrative of panic, your children will absorb that from you – they have been through enough.
  • Reach out to the many community Pharmacists and to me online if you need support – Pharmacists, GP’s and even drug companies have your best interests at heart here and the the wellbeing of your family.


I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderCare facebook page  or Instagram page  my website contact page.



Author: WonderCare Blog

My name is Sheena Mitchell, I'm a pharmacist with my own business Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6. From working in the pharmacy I've realised that there are a lot of first time and experienced parents who might benefit from hints and tips from a pharmacist who can balance healthcare advice with real hands on experience from my important work as a mother of three! I hope to bring you regular advice and information and answer questions that you have! Being a mother and pharmacist are my two favorite things and I'm delighted to have this way of bringing my two worlds together! All questions and queries are gratefully received but otherwise sit back, relax, and let the solutions come to you! Check out A WonderCare Podcast!