Increased demand caused by COVID-19 has seen more medicines delivered to the community over this period than at any other time in Australia’s history, says NPSA
Australian wholesalers distributed more than 70 million PBS medicines during March and April, according to data collated by the National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA).
Increased demand caused by COVID-19 has seen more medicines delivered to the community over this period than at any other time in Australia’s history with volumes up more than 70% in March compared to the same time last year.
The national wholesaler network, operating within the framework of the Community Service Obligation (CSO), receives, warehouses and distributes medicines and pharmacy products, filling daily orders placed by more than 5,500 community pharmacies around Australia.
High medicines demand has placed pressure on the supply chain, resulting in pharmacies and wholesalers reporting numerous product lines being out of stock.
Small and rural pharmacy owners in particular expressed frustration at continuing issues in accessing medicines, with the TGA blaming stockpiling of medicines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic for hundreds of “stock-outs”.
“We’ve seen extraordinary pressure across all segments of the supply chain and appreciate the difficulties experienced by consumers as certain shortages continue,” said NPSA Chairman Mark Hooper.
“However, the infrastructure and systems we have in place across the wholesaler network have withstood the test.”
He thanked the more than 3,000 men and women working across the wholesaler network, made up of distribution centre workers, customer support teams, security officers, freight drivers, IT personnel, managers and office support staff.
“These are everyday Australians who have gone above and beyond during a time of great need for our country, working long hours under significant pressure to ensure communities across the country can continue to access vital medicines in a timely manner,” said Mr Hooper.
While some groups have criticised the CSO in recent months, Mr Hooper says the CSO framework has enabled wholesalers “to respond constructively to the early volatile environment, preserving medicine availability and ensuring equity of access to medicines.”
“We recognise the hard work and challenges faced by community pharmacists at this time. We appreciate the collaborative efforts of government, medicine manufacturers and pharmacy as supply chain stakeholders continue to manage the COVID-19 environment.”