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CDC Recommends Alternatives to Penicillin G Potassium During Vial Shortage

Cheryl A. Thompson

Responding to the shortage of vials of penicillin G potassium for injection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday recommendations for alternatives to this drug in the treatment of certain sexually transmitted diseases. CDC also stated that existing supplies of the drug should be used only in patients for whom alternative antimicrobials are inappropriate.

Despite the shortage of vials, frozen premixes of penicillin G potassium in 5% dextrose injection remain available from Baxter Healthcare Corporation. The company announced October 21 that it had greatly increased production of that product line, in which 1, 2, or 3 million units of penicillin G comes packaged in 50 mL of diluent. 

The CDC recommendations, available at, pertain to the treatment of congenital syphilis and neurosyphilis and the prophylaxis of intrapartum group B streptococcus. These three conditions, according to CDC, are among the relatively few for which penicillin G potassium remains the treatment of choice. 

In early October, Pfizer Inc. had announced that the company had no supplies of its brand-name penicillin G potassium product, Pfizerpen, and did not expect to have any available until fourth quarter 2000. The manufacturer of the generic product, Marsam Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Schein Pharmaceutical Inc., had earlier announced that, because of manufacturing problems noted by the FDA, the company had begun recalling products and suspended manufacturing and testing activities.