Medicines shortages affect most pharmacists

Eighty-five percent of you are affected by shortages on a regular basis, according to our latest poll

Due to a shortage of both brands and generics, 76% of poll respondents reported having to contact the initial prescriber to arrange a therapeutic alternative.

Only 47% reported being “usually able” to provide the generic alternative or substitute brands, while 19% had used the Special Access Scheme (SAS) to access products from overseas.

More than half of poll respondents (52%) reported stockpiling medicines to avoid running out.

Meanwhile, 27% said they didn’t stockpile due to costs, with 38% delaying purchasing stock due to reduced government reimbursements and potential financial loss.

Only 8% said they didn’t stockpile for reasons other than costs.

More than half of respondents (54%) found out about out-of-stock medicines from invoice receipts, while more than one quarter (27%) used the TGA websites or alerts.

Fourteen percent found out by other means, while 3% reported not knowing how to find out about out-of-stock medicines at all.

In 2015, the main reported reason for shortage notifications has been due to manufacturing issues, says the TGA.

“The stockpiling of medicines by pharmacies may be one of the factors that add to the problem of shortages as it contributes to inaccuracies in understanding the exact volume of product available in the Australian market, to allow adequate stock management more broadly,” says a TGA spokesperson.

With less than half of respondents using TGA alerts, there seems to be an issue with the organisation’s website, the Medicine Shortages Information Initiative (MSII).

AJP reader Kitty comments: “The TGA Medicines Shortage Information Initiative is a great idea but not very useful in reality. How long has metformin XR been out of stock now? Half a year at least and recently it’s listed there.

“Deptran? Out of stock for a month or a few now? Not a word on the TGA MSII website as of 18/7/16. Many many more cases like that. It seems like the TGA is the last to know when there is a medicines shortage.”

However the TGA defends its website, saying it refers to supply to the overall Australian market and does not address localised shortages in specific areas.

“[This] is why some pharmacists may experience a shortage in stock affecting their particular pharmacy supply chain that has not been reported to the TGA for inclusion on the MSII website,” says the TGA spokesperson.

The Department of Health is also working closely with jurisdictional representatives and peak bodies as a member of the COAG Health Council-directed Medicine Shortages Working Party, they say.

“The Working Party was established in December 2015 to identify what additional strategies could be considered to improve the management of medicine shortages including vaccines.”

Did you like this article? Read more here:

Pharmacists frustrated by medicines shortages

Poll: How does your pharmacy deal with medicines shortages?

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  1. Brian Stanley

    “I’m sorry we don’t have any of your important XXXXX medication at the moment, but it’s alright, we have some of the lowest medication costs in the world”

  2. William

    Shortages could be caused by various causes including batch failure, poor forecasting, shipping delays, companies reducing inventory/safety stock, relocation of site of manufacture or over demand etc.
    It would need to looked at on a product by product basis to ascertain the cause for a particular product.

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