NEW DELHI: An acute nationwide shortage of penicillin that is a must for prevention of Strep A bacterial infection — which causes a type of sore throat in children — has now forced the Centre to procure the crucial antibiotic for three years and make it available across the states. Strep A infection in kids, when untreated, leads to serious complications like rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease that kills thousands of children and adolescents in India every year.
Officials in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said after penicillin was put in the list of essential medicines by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, thereby reducing its market price significantly, most manufacturers stopped manufacturing and supplying the crucial antibiotic in last one year.“This has resulted in a situation that penicillin is neither available in government hospitals nor open market. It has made it immensely difficult to treat strep throat in children,” said a senior official. The authorities were alerted about it and have got in touch with some pharma companies to ensure supply of the medicine for at least three years.”
Experts say strep throat often goes undiagnosed and can turn into a long, slow death for many. Without treatment, it can lead to rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, in which the immune system attacks the heart valves. As the valves deteriorate, the heart struggles and gradually wears out. Patients become weak, short of breath and unable to attend school or work.
The infection is largely limited to developing and low and middle income countries due to high population densities and poor living conditions.According to an estimate by the Indian Council of Medical Research, nearly 6-8 per 1,000 children aged 5-16, develop rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic fever too remains endemic in India.
Reason for shortage
After penicillin was put in the list of essential medicines by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, thereby reducing its market price significantly, most manufacturers stopped manufacturing and supplying the crucial antibiotic in last one year