The U.S. is currently experiencing a nationwide shortage of injectable penicillin—also known as Bicillin— the first-line treatment for syphilis. According to the California Department of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the shortage is due to “increased demand and limited manufacturing capacity.” We are currently being told that the shortage is likely to last until the second quarter of 2024.
This is very concerning given the rates of syphilis transmission in California and nationwide. There is an alternative oral medication that can be used to treat syphilis, but it requires two doses per day over several weeks, which can make it difficult for people to complete the full course of treatment.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps people can take to lower their risk of syphilis, including condom use and DoxyPEP. DoxyPEP (doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis) can help prevent syphilis infection and the need for treatment.
DoxyPEP (doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis) is the use of the antibiotic doxycycline to prevent gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis following a possible STI exposure. When taken within 72 hours after a condomless sexual encounter (ideally within 24 hours), DoxyPEP has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of STIs—including syphilis by up to 87%.