Pfizer, Teva running short on antibiotic azithromycin amid COVID-19 therapy hunt

FDA Building 2
Azithromycin has been touted as a COVID-19 therapy hopeful alongside antimalarial hydroxychloroquine. (FDA)

In the hunt for a COVID-19 therapy, some researchers have hit upon a combination of antimalarial hydroxychloroquine and antibiotic azithromycin as a potential answer. So far, clinical results have been mixed at best—but demand for azithromycin has still been sky-high, and drugmakers are feeling the pinch.

Major drugmakers like Teva and Pfizer are scrambling to supply doses of generic azithromycin, a drug touted by President Donald Trump in combination with antimalarial hydroxychloroquine as a possible "game changer" in COVID-19, according to the FDA's running shortages list.

Tuesday, Teva said a "significant increase in demand" has hit its supply of azithromycin blister packs and 30-count bottles. The drugmaker expects a back order on its supply and said the "duration is unknown" for how long the supply challenges could last.

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"Teva has supplied an unprecedented amount of demand and plans to continue to produce as much as possible, as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement. "As noted in the posting, backorders are possible but we are constantly replenishing supply and continuing to ship product every day."

Meanwhile, Pfizer has posted shortages for multiple packagings of its azithromycin generic sold under the brand name Zithromax, with new orders expected to start rolling in in May. In a statement, Pfizer said it was "continuously and diligently monitoring" its supply of the drug despite the heightened demand. 

"We are making every effort to advance the ordering of additional materials, increase our production, reduce lead times and expedite orders to customers, especially those in high-impact areas," the drugmaker said Thursday.

The FDA's list includes 10 drugmakers that have posted shortages, but one––Novartis' Sandoz unit––has already refreshed its supply. The generics maker Monday said supplies of its version of azithromycin were available after an earlier shortage.

RELATED: Hydroxychloroquine takes another hit in failed small-scale COVID-19 study

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