Pharmacy Guild rebuked over scare campaign on medicine shortage

“However, I do not believe that the phased introduction of this new policy will significantly impact the shortage of those medicines included in this policy initiative.”

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That was because the majority of the 320 medicines recommended for 60-day prescribing had no supply shortages, he said. The phased introduction of the scheme – 100 medicines will come on board every six months from September 1 – also meant it was unlikely demand would surge.

“The transition will likely occur over a period of time. This will moderate the demand in the early days of the implementation,” Sansom said.

“Further, co-operation with Medicines Australia and the Generic Medicines Industry Association to ensure an increased availability of stock in anticipation of the introduction should also address transient demand issues.”

Sansom said medicines that could be affected were also mainly brands or formulations for which pharmacists were already managing to find suitable alternatives.

Current Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee chair Professor Andrew Wilson also provided advice on the issue to Health Minister Mark Butler last week.

There are seven medicines on the 60-day dispensing list that are in short supply in Australia without a suitable alternative: Dulaglutide (diabetes), Diltiazem hydrochloride (heart conditions), Eprosartan (hypertension), Nafarelim (endometriosis), Fluorometholone (inflammation in the eyes), Losartan potassium (high blood pressure) and Olsalazine sodium (ulcerative colitis).

However, that is mostly due to manufacturing issues that affect global supply.

Wilson said medicine shortages were determined by factors unrelated to the maximum dispensed quantity, and rarely isolated to Australia.

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As a result, he said the independent committee would not change its advice to government, which it originally gave in 2018.

“The number of patients and volume of medicines prescribed will not change significantly as a result of an increase in the maximum quantity,” Wilson wrote to Butler in a letter.

“If there are any impacts on medicine availability related to the implementation of increased maximum quantities these are likely to be short-term, as the system adjusts to a different phasing of the supply of some medicines.”

He said agencies, pharmacies and suppliers typically worked together to minimise the impacts of shortages on patients when they needed to.

“Consequently, the PBAC believes the concerns raised publicly about medicine supply shortages present no reason to change its previous advice,” he said.

“The PBAC considers this change can be safely implemented and will benefit people with stable medical conditions requiring long-term use of the included medicines.”

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