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Taiwan boosting stocks of drug used to treat mycoplasma pneumoniae

11/29/2023 07:36 PM
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The waiting area of the emergency service for patients with a fever in Children's Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai is packed with parents and children on Tuesday. CNA photo Nov. 28, 2023
The waiting area of the emergency service for patients with a fever in Children's Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai is packed with parents and children on Tuesday. CNA photo Nov. 28, 2023

Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) Taiwan has ramped up production and imports of the main drug used to treat mycoplasma pneumoniae in children, amid a surge in cases of the respiratory illness reported in China in recent weeks, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) said Wednesday.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), provinces in northern China have reported a jump in influenza-like illnesses for consecutive weeks since mid-October, likely driven by a combination of mycoplasma pneumoniae, RSV, COVID-19 and seasonal flu.

In Taiwan, mycoplasma pneumoniae is a relatively common cause of respiratory illness in children, but has accounted for less than 1 percent of flu-like infections diagnosed at Taiwanese hospitals over the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

At a press briefing Wednesday, TFDA Deputy Director-General Chen Hui-fang (陳惠芳) said that while the illness is currently circulating at a low level, the agency has taken precautions to ensure it is prepared for a potential increase.

Chen said that azithromycin, the main antibiotic used to treat mycoplasma pneumoniae, is typically given to children as a powder for oral suspension.

In 2023, demand for the drug increased significantly over the previous year, from 4,680 to 8,050 bottles per month, she said.

Although the two licensed domestic manufacturers of the drug increased output by 30 percent, a nationwide shortage was reported in August, prompting the TFDA to take additional action, Chen said.

Since then, she said, the TFDA received a large import shipment of azithromycin in late October, and the drug's generic manufacturer has recently "doubled or tripled" production.

FDA Deputy Director-General Chen Hui-fang is pictured during a Ministry of Health and Welfare press conference in Taipei on Wednesday. CNA photo Nov. 29, 2023
FDA Deputy Director-General Chen Hui-fang is pictured during a Ministry of Health and Welfare press conference in Taipei on Wednesday. CNA photo Nov. 29, 2023

Taiwan currently has around 27,000 bottles of the drug in oral suspension form for children, Chen said.

In contrast, supplies of the pill form of the drug given to adults are much more ample, according to Chen.

Taiwan currently has stocks of 1.3 million azithromycin pills, equivalent to around 6 months' supply based on average demand of 200,000 pills per month, she said.

Azithromycin is sold under the brand names Zithromax (as an oral drug) and as Azasite (as eye drops).

(By Shen Pei-yao and Matthew Mazzetta)

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