Explosion at Chinese antibiotics factory leaves a shortage of lifesaving antibiotics

19 May 2017

There is currently a global shortage of last resort antibiotics due to a factory explosion in China a few months ago. The factory was one of the few that produces the raw materials for piperacillin / tazobactam, a kind of antibiotic given to hospitalized patients with severe infections, including sepsis. The occurrence of this global shortage highlights the fact that Sweden and other countries need to rethink their procurement policies for antibiotics.

Malin Grape, department head at the Swedish Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten), asserts that this is a worrying development: “This is an important antibiotic and often used for severely ill patients in hospitals in Sweden and the rest of the world too. A system in which there are only a few producers of essential drugs is not sustainable.”

On behalf of the Swedish government. the Public Health Agency is currently reviewing how the supply of current and new types of antibiotics can be secured.
Professor Otto Cars, founder of ReAct, a global network of antibiotic resistance experts, commented: “This situation is particularly  serious as  there are  no new antibiotics in the pipeline. It is therefore vital that we at least ensure access to currently available antibiotics. This is becoming an issue that should be high on the international agenda.”

The shortage further highlights the increasing need for preventing infections to reduce the dependence on antibiotic treatments.