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Posted: 11/01/2022

Navigating the Livestock Penicillin Shortage

After nearly two years of the livestock penicillin shortage, producers are wondering how long this will last and what they can do to keep animals healthy until we get through it. The experienced team at PBS Animal Health is here to help ease your concerns and shine a light on some of the shortage-related trouble (especially with the OTC status change coming in 2023). With the right veterinarian and the right vendor, your operation can face this penicillin supply challenge with confidence.

Why is There a Shortage of Penicillin for Livestock?

Several factors play into the shortage of penicillin, specifically for livestock. Supply chain disruptions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic have left manufacturers scrambling. Labor availability – especially in quality control facilities – and raw material shortages make it nearly impossible to meet demand.

For example, as the need for amoxicillin shot up during the pandemic, some shared key ingredients needed for penicillin have been funneled into amoxicillin production instead. Because amoxicillin treats bacterial infections for humans (often in the ear and throat for children), it takes priority over the livestock applications.

Penicillin isn’t the only veterinary drug that’s affected. Tetracyclines, flunixin, and meloxicam are also in short supply these days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains an official list of current animal drug shortages for us to keep our eyes on. Though the agency is in touch with manufacturers to try and alleviate shortages, it cannot yet say when supply issues will get resolved.

Do You Need a Prescription for Penicillin for Cattle?

Penicillin is one of the more popular antibiotic ingredients for livestock because it’s effective in treating multiple bacterial infections. Cattle producers use penicillin to fight bacterial pneumonia (a.k.a. shipping fever), but it's also used regularly to curb a variety of illnesses in swine, sheep and horses. The injectable is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) medication and does not currently require a prescription.

Penicillin’s OTC Status Changes in June 2023

Starting in June 2023, penicillin and other popular OTC antibiotics will require prescriptions  (or it could be sooner depending on when the manufacturer adopts the prescription labeling). The FDA initiative aims at combating antibiotic resistance and encourages antibiotic use only when absolutely necessary.

This is a huge change for the livestock industry nationwide as producers who are comfortable treating animals on their own will now have to seek veterinary care to access these antibiotics. This change to Rx-only access has many stocking up on what penicillin products they can find now, which may also be playing into the shortage.

NOTE: Many customers mistakenly think that they can no longer order these items, but that’s not true. Some of these items are difficult to find because of the shortage, which is creating confusion as an extra hurdle ahead of the upcoming OTC status change. However, you can absolutely still order (when you can find them!) until the law goes into effect next June.

Where to Buy Livestock Penicillin

When a veterinarian prescribes medication to your animal(s), it’s almost always possible to purchase those medications directly from their office. However, it’s important for farmers to realize that they have options for purchasing the medication elsewhere.

As long as you have a prescription, you can purchase the same medication – often at a better cost – from an online pharmacy like PBS Animal Health. We make the prescription process simple, too. All you have to do is place the order and provide the veterinarian’s contact information during checkout. Our pharmacists contact your vet directly to verify the prescription on your behalf. Once it’s on file, we’ll ship your medication ASAP.

Buy from a Certified Safe Pharmacy

Not all vendors are willing to contact your vet to verify a prescription. More importantly, not all vendors are safe sources for medication. Any time you shop for medication online, be sure you’re shopping with a certified Safe Pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has certified PBS Animal Health as a Safe Pharmacy which means you can trust the medications you purchase from us. Not only that, but this designation proves we’re fully staffed with licensed pharmacists and technicians.

Our warehouse does receive shipments of penicillin, but they go quick! Be one of the first to know when popular products are back in stock by signing up for our out-of-stock notices on the product page. When you find out that something is back in stock, we recommend purchasing right away because those supplies simply won’t last long. If you miss out on the stock notices and can’t seem to find penicillin elsewhere, talk to your vet about alternative treatment options.

Get Antibiotic Insights You Need Now

For all you need to know about OTC antibiotics now and once they become prescription-only products, turn to PBS Animal Health. We’re here to help navigate this shortage and keep producers in the know, plus we’ve got the certified safe pharmacy you need in your corner. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your top penicillin products and be sure to sign up for those out-of-stock notices.

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