Patients urged not to stockpile medicine amid shortages

Patients are being urged not to stockpile medicine as a number of products are unavailable. 

Currently, there are shortages of 241 medicines and 13 are on the Word Health Organisation’s ‘critical list’. 

Despite this, consultant respiratory physician Dr Marcus Butler warned against people buying more than they need. 

“It’s very important not to be stockpiling medication,” he said. 

“Partly because they can also go out of date… particularly the ones used on an as needed basis.” 

Unavailable items include certain types of eye drops and antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections. 

Although concerning, Dr Butler urged people to consult with professionals about taking alternative medication. 

“Some of these shortages are specific to a specific product,” he said. 

“But there are alternative, generic versions of the same product that ought to be available with guidance from the pharmacist. 

“And to also talk to their GP if it’s a prescription item where once again there may be an alternative option.” 

Azure Pharmaceuticals said the crisis is “persisting due to a lack of political interest” and Dr Butler said he was aware of patients “where their conditions worsened because of interruption to availability of, for example, asthma inhaler treatment, since the pandemic.” 

2B3KC6Y Sick boy lying in bed with pills and glass of water on foreground

Hay fever sufferer Orla said she is feeling extremely worried about the shortages as the pollen count rises. 

“Any time I start running low on my antihistamines, I start to panic,” she said. 

“I went to check this morning as well to see how many I have left to go and see if I can get some now to tide me over but also [I don’t want to] bulk buy because, obviously, there are people who need them ahead of me who don’t have any.” 

In a statement to Newstalk, the Department of Health said: 

“In Ireland, whilst individual brands or strengths of a medication may be temporarily unavailable, for most medicines supplied in Ireland, there are alternatives, such as different strengths, brands or similar classes, to ensure continuity of care.

“Based on an analysis of data reported by the pharmaceutical industry over several years, the reasons for shortages are primarily due to manufacturing issues.

“Shortages of medicines are also not unique to Ireland; there is no evidence that shortages disproportionately impact patients in Ireland compared to other countries.”

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