A common antibiotic used to treat everything from Lyme disease to chlamydia to acne is in short supply, leading the drug's price to skyrocket in Minnesota.
Doxycycline is the preferred drug to treat dozens of infections and diseases, said infectious disease Dr. Frank Rhame, a physician with Allina Health at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Doxycycline is also listed as the treatment for gonorrhea, syphilis, anthrax, cholera and malaria and many other lesser-known conditions.
"You can be indicated for a drug and there be alternatives, but there are many [on the list] for which it is the best drug," Rhame said.
Lyme disease is one of those. Patients with Lyme disease would have to have a drug administered intravenously or by intramuscular injection, Rhame said. Minocycline is an alternative for many of the infections usually treated with doxycycline, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is often cautious about listing them because they haven't always been thoroughly studied, he said.
Allina Health pharmacies have seen the price of a 500-count bottle of 100 milligram doxycycline shoot up by nearly 1,000 percent, spokeswoman Gloria O'Connell said. Allina first saw the shortage in January and expects it to last through at least mid-July, she said.
"Pharmacies are absorbing much of the costs, because insurers are still reimbursing at the old rates," O'Connell said. Patients without health insurance are also affected by the price spike.
The exact cause of the shortage is unclear; at least one company that manufactures the drug has cited production problems, but other companies have cited increased demand for the drug.
Rhame said drug shortages have become more common in recent years, and he said the companies often don't provide an adequate explanation for the shortage, including in this case. Drug companies are required to notify the FDA of shortages and provide an explanation.
"If you look at what they've told the FDA, it's basically a non-explanation explanation," he said. "I don't think anybody knows why it's actually in short supply. That doesn't mean necessarily that it's something nefarious, but I wish we had a better explanation of what's going on."