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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Disruption to medicines supply chain leads to growing concerns

Health Industry Hub | March 9, 2020 |

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has warned that panic buying of medicines is unnecessary and may have unintended consequences for Australian patients.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said pharmacists had professional and legal responsibilities to ensure appropriate and safe supply of prescription medicines, and dispensing multiple repeats without good reason was inadvisable and outside the guidelines published by the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

The TGA is utilising information it has about Chinese manufacturers and is having active discussions with Australian medicine sponsors, wholesalers and pharmacists to determine any potential future impact to medicine supply.

Australia imports over 90% of medicines and is at the end of a very long global supply chain, making the nation vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.

China not only manufactures drugs but makes many of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used by drug manufacturers in other countries, such as the United States, from which Australia imports 20% of its pharmaceuticals.

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As of last week, the Indian government restricted the exports of 26 medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients, including paracetamol.

Mr Tambassis was responding to numerous anecdotal reports of consumers trying to “stock-up” on prescription medicines because of fears the onset of COVID-19 might lead to medicine shortages in Australia. Wholesalers have also reported higher than usual demand for prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

There is currently no recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer, Departments of Health or any other public health authority of the need for patients to stockpile.

“The Pharmacy Guild is not aware of any medicine which is currently unavailable or in short supply in Australia specifically because of COVID-19,” Mr Tambassis said.

“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, but these issues pre-dated and are entirely unrelated to coronavirus.

“Paradoxically, if panic buying does take hold for medicines and other products, shortages may well arise – and we certainly hope this can be avoided,” he said.

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