An unclear situation

empty shelves

No COVID-19 related medicine shortages yet, regulators say, but reports surface of rural supply issues

The TGA is continuing to advise consumers against the stockpiling of medicines, saying that there as yet no notifications of shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the latest update on it’s TGA response to coronavirus (COVID-19) page, on Friday 13 March, the regulator said that as of the previous week, it “has not received any notifications of medicine shortages in Australia that are a direct result of COVID-19.

Therefore, while it may be appropriate for individuals to ensure that they have at least two weeks supply of prescription medicines in the unlikely event they are quarantined, any stockpiling of medicines is unnecessary. Stockpiling by individuals could result in other consumers being unable to access particular medicines (e.g. from their local pharmacy)”.

Despite this advice, there are reports of temporary shortages in some rural areas.

At least three major drug wholesalers had written to pharmacists warning of unprecedented demands for stock and apologising for supply chain challenges, according to documents seen by GP publicationThe Medical Republic.

The report is backed up by an ongoing AJP poll, in which 81% of respondents to date agreed that “Yes, we’ve had patients asking for more scripts than the usual month’s worth of dispensing”. The same percentage also agreed with the statement “Yes, we’ve had patients wanting to buy unusual/high amounts of face masks and/or sanitiser”.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia both confirmed to Medical Republic that many pharmacies were experiencing low stock levels for a number of medicines.

However, the presidents of both peak representative bodies reassured the general public that the drug shortage was only occurring at a local level and that pharmacies would be re-stocked soon.

Both organisations participated in a Medicine Shortages Working Party teleconference with the TGA and drug wholesalers on Tuesday.

“Advice from the wholesalers is that the current ‘out of stocks’ are occurring at the local warehouse level and that there are no significant stock shortages at a national level,” George Tambassis, the national president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, said.

“Temporary out-of-stocks over the next few weeks in some areas will be replenished,” Mr Tambassis said. “There is no need for customers to panic buy.”



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