Watch CBS News

MDH: There's a shortage of medication to treat syphilis

WCCO digital update: Morning of Aug. 8, 2023
WCCO digital update: Morning of Aug. 8, 2023 01:18

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Department of Health has put out a health advisory warning of an impending shortage in Bicillin, used primarily for treating syphilis.

MDH put out this advisory on the heels of the CDC and Federal Drug Administration's announcement that the long-acting penicillin G benzathine (Bicillin) are in short supply due to increased demand. 

According to the MDH, the shortage is forecasted to last until the second quarter of 2024.

This recent announcement has health clinics scrambling as Bicillin is the only recommended treatment for pregnant people who have syphilis. This is also the medication only recommended for infants. 

Annual HIV/STD 2022 Data Release Live Webinar by mnhealth on YouTube

This news is also concerning healthcare workers as there has been a significant increase in syphilis -- a 25% increase in 2022 -- including in people who are pregnant. In total, there were 1,832 cases of syphilis in 2022, compared to 1,457 in 2021. 

The Minnesota Department of Health

Data from MDH show that new infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly among men who have sex with men. However, there was a 42% increase in congenital syphilis in infants from 2021 to 2022. 

Up to 40% of infants born to pregnant people with untreated syphilis are stillborn, suffer early infant death, or suffer from long-term impairments such as blindness, deafness, and bone damage. 

The Minnesota Department of Health

If someone who has contracted syphilis starts treatment immediately -- especially while in pregnancy -- the treatment is nearly 100% effective at preventing devastating outcomes of congenital syphilis. 

Health care providers have been advised to prioritize Bicillin to treat syphilis in pregnant people as well as infants and prescribe doxycycline to treat non-pregnant adolescents and adults with syphilis. 

MORE NEWS: MDH says children, pregnant people shouldn't eat fish from 2 bodies of water contaminated by PFAS

MDH may be able to help patients and providers procure Bicillin if the shortage is impacting certain regions harder than others. 

The department encourages those who need help finding support to contact them at 651-201-5414 and ask to speak to someone in the STD, HIV, and TB section. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.