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Shortage of Drug Used to Treat Lyme Disease a Concern
05/24/2013   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

Just as tick season gets underway, prices for the medication most commonly used to treat Lyme disease have skyrocketed. The rising price of the drug seems to be the direct result of a manufacturing shortage and Senator Susan Collins wants the FDA to do something about it.

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If you're one of the 16,000 people unlucky enough to contract Lyme Disease this year, chances are, you'll be prescribed the antibiotic, doxycycline. Problem is, you may not be able get it.

"The shortage is getting worse with each passing day," said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). She said she wants the government to get involved.

"To try to get the FDA some new powers to identify shortages early, to require manufactures to report if they're having manufacturing problems," Collins said.

Lyme disease is an infectious, bacterial disease passed through bites from the deer tick. It's especially common through the woodsy Northeast, and Maine is one of 13 states with the highest numbers of Lyme disease cases, said Collins. And those figures will only go up, she said, as more residents, and visitors, head out to enjoy Maine's outdoor life over the next several months. That some of them will get Lyme disease just as effective drugs to treat it are becoming more scarce, is troubling, she said. It's also likely to be expensive, as Maine pharmacists already know.

"Probably 500 times more than last year, this time," said Portland based Pharmacist Momen Abdullayof. He said he's planning to keep paying the 500 fold mark up in order to keep doxycycline in stock.

But he said, it's definitely more expensive for his customers, whose ailments may range from skin to heart infections, to Lyme disease, Lyme disease prevention, or STDs.

"This is not the first drug we've seen shortages of, this one just happens to have a lot of uses that are important," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears. He said the sporadic shortfall of drugs has been a habitual problem in recent years, and he's applauding Collins' involvement in calling for the FDA to have more power to be proactive when drug manufactures can't or aren't meeting demand.

Maine could be facing a double crisis. Lyme disease figures aside, Sears said demand for the drug in Maine has gone up because the numbers of cases of the STD chlamydia have also gone up. Again, the first line of treatment? Doxycycline.

"Anything that can be done to help get more made and more available would be very useful for everybody, Sears said.

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