How the Doxycycline Antibiotic Shortage May Affect You

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How the Doxycycline Antibiotic Shortage May Affect You

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

  • J

    Aloha! I have a lot stored but my question is….how long can it be good for until I cannot and shouldn’t take it. I have chronic mastoiditis that has put me under 5 times for surgery and along with the doxycycline comes the pain meds. That too is what I would like to know the life of. Please respond.
    P.S. Mahalo for all your posts you share. I have learned so much from them. God Bless you and Yours!

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      J, thanks for the kind words. Most antibiotics and pain meds stay good for years after expiration. They should be stored in a cool dry place. At worst, the potency gradually goes down. Plain erythromycin is one that can become dangerous if taken very long after expiration.

  • Twofeet

    were does one get this anti-biotic? Dr’s do not want to give antibiotics out at all, so prescriptions are not easily gotten. Thank you for answering this concern.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      In my opinion, the best way is to ask your doctor to see if he/she will give you an extra refill to keep on hand in cases of emergencies–when it’s impossible to get medical help. Some docs will. Some won’t. The only way you’ll ever know is to ask. Promise you’ll only use it in dire emergencies. In high risk lyme disease areas some docs might give you a bottle if you’re going to be camping, etc. Some people also keep a store of fish-antibiotics (such as amoxicillin. Although I have qualms about recommending them, I have found nothing to tell me they’re not as safe as the ones for humans. Do your own research on those.

  • Errn

    As a nurse, I think it is really stupid advice to tell people to keep antibiotics on hand to take without seeing a physician. You are opening the door to drug resistant organisms, useless or ineffective treatment if the organism is not sensitive to the medication a lay person may choose to treat it or if it is not a bacterial infection, and side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and yeast infections. Shame on you.

    • LilMissPrepper

      Then you’re one of the ONLY nurses NOT to do it. Most of the nurses i know, including myself, always have a back up supply on hand.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks for your opinion. Definitely it’s best to check with your doctor before starting antibiotics (see my disclaimer, and read my other posts). But, what if there comes a time when you can’t get to a doctor? Say, there’s another Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, a terrorist attack, an earthquake, a snowstorm and you have an infected cut that’s really getting bad–maybe in a diabetic. A few years back they had riots in England and it was unsafe to even be on the streets for a few days. If that time never comes again, fine, great. But everyone should be prepared, at least for a few days. I think it’s also, wise, to educate people and not treat them like children.

  • Dougie Houser

    Dr. Hubbard,

    Minocycline is an excellent alternative that treats virtually the same diseases as doxy (and has a broader spectrum of action and better tissue penetration in several cases), and is, surprisingly, a lot cheaper than doxycycline is currently. Dosages should be roughly equivalent to those of doxycycline, although even at lower dosages, unlike doxycycline, minocycline retains its antimicrobial effect.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks. Yes, it is an alternative that I didn’t mention.

      • Dougie Houser

        It’s also used off-label for mild rheumatoid arthritis, as I’m sure you already know. The tetracyclines are very interesting drugs because of their coincidental anti-inflammatory effect and new research is pretty exciting.

        • ozarked

          Is it true that, unlike most other antibiotics, the ‘cyclines exhibit some degree of toxicity once past their expiration dates?

          • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

            The only one I know that has proven toxicity after degradation begins is plain tetracycline. The newer types of tetracycline are supposed to be more resistant to degradation, but I wouldn’t take any medication that is crumbling or is past it’s expiration and looks like it’s degrading

          • Ddog

            Isn’t plain tetracycline cheap? I am looking for alternatives to treat my dogs lyme disease. How come it isn’t recommended when doxycycline is unobtainable or affordable? For my dog I would need 1250 mg a day for 30 days of the doxy.

          • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

            Ddog, as mentioned above, it can become toxic with degradation, and is not as good as Doxy for RMSF. As for, lyme disease in dogs, I’d guess it’s fine, but I’d ask a vet to make sure.

  • PatriciaValenzuela

    how do we get medications without scripts , the doc, will not just give u scripts,if your not sick with these certain things ?

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Some doctors may give you an extra refill (insurance won’t pay. You have to pay out of pocket). Some preppers buy fish antibiotics. I don’t recommend these but I can’t find anything to imply they’re not safe.

  • Gary Newbold, Attorney at Law

    Valuable info — as always

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Gary