Drugs for diabetes, hormone replacement, depression, nausea and stroke among those listed by the TGA as in short supply
Australia faces a “dire” medicine shortage, with more than 300 drugs in short supply and another 80 anticipated to join the list, as doctors and pharmacists call for a national strategy to prevent the situation getting worse.
Drugs for diabetes, hormone replacement therapy, depression, nausea, stroke and contraception are among the 320 drugs listed by the TGA as in current short supply, with about 50 of these listed as critical.
Another 80 are listed as anticipated to be in short supply, including anti-venom for the funnel web spider, and a drug used in leukaemia treatment.
The Pharmacy Guild is also reporting shortages of off-the-shelf cold and flu medications, including liquid paracetamol for children, with new measures in place to try and manage supplies.
The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Karen Price, said the situation had been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic affecting international supply chains, with the issue becoming more acute in recent years.
“What we’re finding is that we’re suddenly getting patients saying I can’t get that medication or the pharmacist has changed it … so this is becoming an increasing problem,” Price said.
“There’s many drugs that we’re now encountering that people are unable to get, and that’s a big issue for Australia.
“For a developed nation, it is pretty dire, and medicines are not easily substituted between each other.”
Price said that doctors and pharmacists were managing patients on a case by case basis, but called for a new national strategy that focused on supply chain management, and more manufacturing capability in Australia.
“Being a small market means there’s not a lot of wriggle room in our on-the-shelf reserves, so we do have to look at this more broadly at a strategic level in terms of what our local manufacturing is, our capacity, and also from a risk management point of view with logistics and supply chain experts so that we don’t have to go into a reactive situation or patients go without.”The acting president of The Pharmacy Guild, Nick Panayiaris, said that a new medicine supply guarantee signed between the federal government and drug manufacturers would help address some shortages of PBS listed drugs, but more needed to be done.
The agreement will require companies to hold a minimum of either four or six months of stock in Australia for certain PBS-listed medicines, but will come with price rises for up to 900 different drugs.The minimum stockholding requirements come into effect in July 2023.“There is a whole sovereign risk issue here. We used to be great manufacturers of medication in the country, and unfortunately more and more of that has been lost, especially the generic medicine industry where a lot of that now is based in India and China and so forth,” he said.“So the government needs to seriously look at this, because they’re not just any commodity, they are essential medicines, which basically keep people alive.
“They need to look at all measures which improve that security aspect and the sovereign issue around the supply and logistics of making sure that we have got enough [medicines] and we are, where we can, manufacturing our own, or at least sourcing the raw ingredients to some degree and being able to quickly pivot when we need to in terms of the supply chain problems that may arise.”
He said pharmacies across the country were also getting “smashed” for off-the-shelf products as a result of Covid and other winter illnesses, with difficulties in getting enough liquid paracetamol into the country.“Again, where we haven’t got our own independent production resource from that point of view, we rely on that coming from overseas,” he said.“We’ve got increased demand for paracetamol use, and unfortunately right now that’s a huge problem for us at a pharmacy level in terms of having a critical medicine that we really need to have when people are suffering from the effects of Covid,” he said.“There’s no certainty at the moment of when we’ll get a reasonable in-stock position with these things at the moment – it’s just a bit of Russian roulette, to be honest with you.”