Australians continue to be warned against panic buying of medicines and other health-related products, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country continues to grow
With 40 cases now confirmed in Australia as at Wednesday, Australians continue to stock up on basics such as toilet paper, with hand sanitisers and face masks now increasingly difficult to access.
Associate Professor Chris Freeman, national president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, has told the AJP that while concern over the novel coronavirus is understandable, there is no need for the general public to stockpile either over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
“It is important for patients to be prepared however stockpiling extended quantities of medicines should be discouraged,” he said.
“Concern has been expressed by PSA members over the last few days about medicines stockpiling by patients, including on advice by their medical practitioners, many presenting with regulation 24 prescriptions which allows them to obtain six months’ supply of their medicines.
“Stockpiling can result in a disproportionate supply of medicines for some patients, with the majority of patients at risk of medicines depletion (medicines shortages) over time.
“This behaviour has the potential to exacerbate medicines shortages in Australia.
“Pharmacists should assure patients that there is no need to panic at the moment and they should follow the advice being provided by government including good hand hygiene.”
Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild Anthony Tassone made similar comments on Tuesday, telling the AJP that “It can be challenging for pharmacists trying to allay patient concerns, particularly because medication shortages and out of stocks have been part of the pharmacy landscape for the last couple of years threatening continuity of supply for patients and requiring numerous brand substitution changes for some patients”.
Meanwhile Mary-Louise McLaws, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of New South Wales, has told 10 Daily that “prepping,” or stockpiling goods including medicines is “very un-Australian”.
“I am very concerned that not all Australians have money to follow such prepping. Those who are living hand-to-mouth, they can’t afford to go out and get high-priced food,” she said.
She also said that stockpiling of hand sanitiser and face masks was a waste of a “precious” resource.
Health Minister Greg Hunt appeared on Sky News First Edition with Laura Jayes on Wednesday, confirming that Australia has seen a significant number of cases from Iran, and that forecast numbers from the country were “inadequate and unreported”.
“As a consequence, yesterday, the Prime Minister asked the chief health officers around the country through the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee to review the high risk countries and as a consequence of that, today we are implementing additional measures to those that have been taken requiring everybody who has arrived from Iran from 19 February to self-isolate in Australia,” the Minister said.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, or a visitor from Iran, the message is very clear – you are now required to self-isolate.
“That is a new position which follows directly from the Prime Minister’s request yesterday.”
He said that to date there has been “overwhelming co-operation” with requirements to self-isolate in Australia.