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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  1. Philip Smith

    Codral rep said get in as last shipment this week for up to 3 months. May just be a sales tactic?

  2. Karalyn Huxhagen

    Sorry George but in Qld we have NO Ventolin or Asmol. That is COVID19 related as the media is telling everyone they are going to die from respiratory illness relating to COVID19. Sooo they are all in for every asthma and COPD medication they can get. Flixotide unavailable. My Symbion and Sigma screen has more unavailables than avaialbale both OTC and ethical. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen all gone even with adding three weeks extra stocks as we were about to have two cyclones.
    The media has told everyone to make sure their medicine cupboards are well stocked for their familes and that is occurring.
    Most of the availability dates I can see from wholesalers say May to replenish basic items.
    So if you do not think that Australian phcy outside of the big cities is in trouble you are deluding yourself.
    we are being beseiged by people wanting respiratory drugs, painkillers, hand sanitiser and toilet paper. The telephone does not stop with me fielding calls from 1200km away desperatley searching for Ventolin inhalers. I have three whoelsalers and not one has anything of value to give me in this seige.

    • Karalyn Huxhagen

      PS I could never stock up with six months of stock like some as I can barely cover my bills now since the latest price drops and other attacks on phcy bottom line. How the dickens can phcies buy six months stock and pay on time? This must be investigated as it is grossly unfair that mainstream phcy is not able to provide to their customers but the big boys in town have now got their own warehousing set up to make them look like the golden cildren of phcy

      • Ian Magill

        Small pharmacies effectively bare the brunt of the price disclosure mechanisms whilst the ‘big ones’ seem to be gaming the system by having trading terms that extend repayment to many months with eye watering discount rates; products are reduced in price some time before the price disclosure date; and, have the inside information on issues before they become public! In my mind these shortages are NOT demand driven supply issues but rather supplier driven, opportunistic predatory behavior to elbow out the competition (ie ‘US’).

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