Don’t stockpile meds: TGA

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The TGA has issued new advice telling Australians that there’s no need to stockpile medicines, as it could cause access problems for others

On Tuesday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration said that as at 6 March 2020, it had not received any notifications of medicine shortages in Australia that are a direct result of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

“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,” it advised consumers.

“Stockpiling by individuals could result in other consumers being unable to access particular medicines (e.g. from their local pharmacy).

“Stockpiling of any medicines at this time is not indicated and could result in patients not receiving the medicines that they require.”

The advice comes following repeated reports of stockpiling behaviour amongst consumers, particularly of toilet paper. Two women have been charged over a recent scuffle in the toilet paper aisle of a Woolworths supermarket in Chullora.

Representatives of both the Pharmacy Guild and the PSA have recently told the AJP that there is no need to stockpile medicines, and that consumers who do so could inadvertently spark a shortage.

But Dr Andrew Miller, the WA state president of the Australian Medical Association, has told Channel 7’s Flashpoint that people who were stashing away supplies of toilet paper were being “sensible”.

“There’s always a couple of bogans having a fist fight at an IGA somewhere,” he said.

“Of course you’re going to stock up for a bit. There’s 50 million people in China who have been locked down for six weeks, are you saying that can’t happen here?”

Meanwhile the TGA says that “given the evolving situation, the TGA is closely monitoring international manufacturing of medicines and liaising with Australian medicine sponsors, wholesalers and pharmacists to determine any potential future impact to medicine supply to Australian consumers”.

“The TGA is also part of an active international network of regulators who are meeting regularly to assess medicine shortages, with a focus on availability of medicines associated with COVID-19,” it said.

It also highlighted that the national Medicines Shortages Working Group will meet regularly to discuss emerging issues relating to possible shortages and their management.

“Consumers who are concerned about the impact of COIVD-19 on the supply of their medicines are encouraged to discuss the ongoing management of their condition with their health professional,” it said.

“As part of the Department of Health, the TGA has also been actively involved in monitoring supplies of face masks in Australia.

“The Government has also recently organised for release of further masks for healthcare professionals from the national medicines stockpile and supported increases in the local manufacture as well as additional importation of masks.”

NPS MedicineWise has produced a new article for consumers about using their regular medicines in the times of COVID-19.

Medicines play an important role in treating conditions and diseases. They help people to manage long-term conditions and to manage symptoms of short-term illnesses,” the article says.

“However, there is no need to stockpile large quantities of medicines you or your family take. Having much more than a month’s supply of medicines is generally not necessary and comes with extra costs and medicine safety risks.”

The article lists potential risks of stockpiling:

  • “The medicines, doses and strengths of medicines you need can change over time. Medicines you stockpile now may not be needed for you later and may go to waste.”
  • “Medicines expire. If you keep too many at home, they may sit in your cupboard for a long time, and before you know it, they may have passed their expiry date.”
  • “Make sure you know the active ingredient in the medicines you are taking. Having multiple packs at home containing the same medicine may cause confusion and make it more likely to accidently double dose on a medicine, which can be harmful.”
  • “Having more medicines in the house increases the risk of them falling into the wrong hands. A child or pet may accidentally take them and have unwanted or dangerous side effects.”
  • “Buying extra medicines can involve extra financial costs. NPS MedicineWise has information on keeping your medicine costs down.”

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