On top of everything else, Australia is now facing a shortage of more than 300 medicines including contraception, anti-depressants, hormone replacement drugs and treatments for diabetes, stroke and nausea. This news is making me queazy.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has listed 320 drugs in current short supply, about 50 of which are listed in critical supply. A further 80 drugs are predicted to be added to the list in the coming days including anti-venom for funnel web spiders — good, great — and a leukaemia treatment.
Shortages of other common medicines like cold and flu medications have also been reported by the Pharmacy Guild.
So wtf is going on?
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Karen Price told Guardian Australia the issue of medicine shortages has been there for a while, it’s just been exacerbated by the pandemic affecting demand and international supply chains.
“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.”
Price said for a country as wealthy as Australia the situation was “pretty dire”. He said we need a national strategy to address the medicine shortages.
“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,” he said.
The Federal Government signed a supply and drug manufacturers to help with the shortages to come into effect in July 2023. It’ll require companies to hold a minimum stock of either four or six months for some medications. But it will also allow price rises for as many as 900 drugs.
The Pharmacy Guild says it’s coming way too late.
“We used to be great manufacturers of medication in the country, and unfortunately more and more of that has been lost,” Pharmacy Guild acting president Nick Panayiaris told Guardian Australia.
“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.”
Nobody panic though!!!!