How the Doxycycline Antibiotic Shortage May Affect You | The Survival Doctorby James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Thanks to The Survival Mom for reminding me of the public concerns over the doxycycline shortage. For several months now, this commonly prescribed antibiotic has been in short supply.

There are plenty of other antibiotics, so why the worry? Well, this one’s particularly good for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever—and we’re right on the verge of peak season for those two dangerous diseases. Uh-oh.

Why the Shortage?

As usual in drug shortages, it’s hard to point to one cause. Apparently a manufacturer or two have stopped making doxycycline. Some say there’s a scarcity of basic ingredients. Others suggest the manufacturers may have decided to use their resources to produce drugs that have a better profit margin.

The shortage has caused the retail price of doxycycline to skyrocket. Today, I called my local Walgreens and was quoted $85 for a two-week supply of generic doxycycline. I’m guessing that same amount was about $15 or $20 a year ago.

Don’t Panic

For years, doxycycline has been a cheap cure for multiple illnesses as variable as pneumonia, sinusitis, sexually transmitted diseases, malaria, and Lyme disease. But really, the shortage is no reason to panic.

I often recommend keeping antibiotics on hand in case you can’t get to a doctor. And this is a good one. So if you’ve been wanting to get some to store and you still have a reliable, cheap source, go for it. But I’d suggest you don’t just buy a bunch for storage right now if it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. And don’t buy it cheap from some online pharmacy you know nothing about. Who knows what you’ll be getting.

Odds are, like in other shortages, some enterprising manufacturer will see an opportunity and take over what others have abandoned.

Doxycycline Alternatives

It’s soon going to be peak Lyme disease season. And doxycycline is the most common treatment choice. But as far as I know, amoxicillin and cefuroxime work just as well.

Even it the shortage becomes permanent, there are alternative antibiotics that are just as good for most illnesses. The one exception that comes to mind is Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Nothing has been shown to decrease mortality in that one as well as doxycycline. But even with that, there are alternatives. They’re just not quite as good.

I’m sure there are other rare diseases I’ve left out, but remember, doxycycline hasn’t gone off the market. And, as expensive as it’s gotten, it’s still a lot cheaper than some of the newer brand-name antibiotics.

What about you? Have you heard of the shortage? Has it caused you any problem? Have you taken any action?

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Photo: Flickr/jackhynes