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Taiwan boosts antibiotic imports, production due to mycoplasma outbreak

Taiwan has bolstered imports of azithromycin and nearly tripled domestic production

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Azithromycin sold by Pfizer under brand name Zithormax. (FDA image)

Azithromycin sold by Pfizer under brand name Zithormax. (FDA image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that it has boosted imports and domestic production of antibiotics used to treat children for mycoplasma pneumonia due to a shortage of the medication.

The CDC on Wednesday (Nov. 29) said that although the quantity of azithromycin has increased, there have been temporary shortages, reported Newtalk.

However, the CDC stressed that both imports and domestic production of the drug have doubled. Therefore, it urged the public to not worry.

The main infection route of mycoplasma is through droplets, and it is also a common respiratory pathogen in children. Infected people often have symptoms such as persistent coughing and the disease known as "walking pneumonia."

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Director-General Chen Hui-fang (陳惠芳) said on Wednesday azithromycin can be used for mycoplasma pneumonia, bacteria-caused respiratory tract infections, skin and soft tissue infections, and otitis media. Currently, there are two drug licenses for this medication in Taiwan, one for original manufacturers and the other for domestic generic drug makers.

According to FDA data, the average monthly consumption of azithromycin by the National Health Insurance (NHI) last year was about 4,680 bottles, which increased to 8,050 bottles this year. Chen said that although the import of the original manufacturer's drug increased by 1.3 times compared with last year, demand still exceeded supply.

In August, the FDA reported a shortage and also implemented inventory control to regulate supply. At the end of October, a large quantity was imported, with the total inventory reaching about 27,000 bottles. In addition, domestic production of generic drugs has also increased by two to three times.

The FDA said there are seven domestic licenses for adult azithromycin oral tablets, and the average monthly dosage under the NHI is about 200,000 tablets, which is sufficient for five or six months. Chen said 20,000 units are expected to be imported or produced in December, and short-term demand can be met.

In order to cope with the drop in immunity after restrictions were lifted this year, the FDA sent letters to drug license holders on Aug. 2 to inventory and prepare raw materials for antibiotics, respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal tracts, antipyretics, and analgesics to ensure stable production and supply of medicines during autumn and winter.

The CDC said the overall domestic situation with respiratory infections has been declining for seven weeks, and the proportion of mycoplasma pneumonia is low, less than 1%, indicating a low level of circulation.

The FDA reminded the public that if they have respiratory diseases, they should seek medical attention and follow the doctor's instructions when taking medication.