No shortage of salbutamol

asthma reliever puffer on its side

While GSK is prioritising supply of salbutamol to hospital pharmacies, there are good stock levels of the medicine across the country

There have been anecdotal reports of an increased demand for some medicines, including salbutamol, as the COVID-19 crisis deepens in Victoria and Stage 3 restrictions were introduced in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

One industry source told the AJP that some wholesalers had noticed a spike in demand in the second week of July, but that this had since died down.

RACGP publication newsGP quoted Richmond GP Dr Cathy Andronis, who said that shortages are the worst she has seen, though different medicines and pharmacies are being affected at different times.

“People hear about shortages so their reflex action is to go and fill up all scripts as soon as they can. That exacerbates the problem,” she told the publication.

A spokesperson for GSK told the AJP that, “Unprecedented and unpredictable high consumer demand for Ventolin (salbutamol) inhalers across Australia in March and April, is still impacting availability in some areas of the country at a pharmacy level”.

“We now have good stock levels of Ventolin inhalers, but we still have allocation procedures in place with our pharmacy wholesalers to make sure supplies are distributed to where they are needed,” they said.

“In partnership with wholesalers we are prioritising supply to hospital pharmacies; all pharmacies should contact their usual wholesaler for supply-related questions.”

It is understood that Mylan, supplier of Asmol, also has plenty of supply though in some parts of Victoria, patients may have exhibited some stockpiling behaviour which affected wholesaler stocks temporarily.

A spokesperson for the TGA said that, “The TGA is not aware of any current medicine shortage issues relating to salbutamol medicines”.

“Whilst there is one anticipated shortage for Airomir Autohaler from 20 July 2020 to 28 August 2020, there are no shortages reported to the TGA for the Ventolin and Asmol brands of salbutamol inhalers.

“Additionally, previous medicine shortages for Ventolin Nebules 5mg/2.5ml and 2.5mg/2.5ml have been resolved.”

The TGA spokesperson said the body has been liaising regularly with sponsors and wholesalers regarding medicine shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continues to closely monitor the supply situation, including the supply of salbutamol inhalers.

Pharmacists are still urged to discourage unnecessary stockpiling of medicines, the spokesperson said.

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