Nationwide antibiotic shortage drives up prices, panics parents

The owner of Milwaukee's Hayat Pharmacy said a nationwide shortage of antibiotics is driving up costs and sending parents into a panic.

Hashim Zaibak said don’t panic yet. Hayat has been able to stockpile antibiotics by switching wholesalers, but the shortage is still causing concern.

"We are getting phone calls from parents," said Zaibak. "We’re getting phone calls from hospitals."

Zaibak said they are all looking for antibiotics that are in short supply.

"Because of the secondary infections that patients get either from flu or RSV or even from COVID, sometimes children end up with a bacterial infection," said Zaibak. "There’s been an increase in the number of prescriptions written for these antibiotics."

Zaibak said it’s a nationwide problem primarily impacting medications for children.

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"You look at the wholesaler website… zero, zero, zero," said Zaibak. 

That’s also tripling costs for drugs like Tamiflu, an antiviral used to treat the flu.

"A lot of children are not getting vaccinated," said Zaibak. "We have a lot of children not getting the flu vaccine or COVID. That’s an issue."

Hayat offers both vaccines. Few are rolling up their sleeves. With masking and social distancing a thing of the past, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor Dr. Ben Weston said there’s a greater risk this season of getting sick.

"Influenza-positive cases are rising steeply and earlier than any time in the past five years," said Weston.

Hayat Pharmacy has so far weathered the shortage.

"I’ve been ordering all I could from wholesalers," said Zaibak.

Children’s Wisconsin has contingencies planned in case the shortage starts impacting patients.

Zaibak said at Hayat, they’ve also seen an increase in COVID testing ahead of Thanksgiving and expect demand to continue through the holidays.