Inhalers, antibiotics among medicines in short supply

Eye drops used to treat allergic eye conditions including hayfever are among some 247 medicines currently in short supply.

The latest figures from the Medicine Shortages Index also shows continued shortages of up to 30 antibiotics, but pharmacists say alternative medicines are available.

The Index, compiled by pharmaceutical company Azure using weekly data from the Health Products Regulartory Authority, also found that of the medicines currently unavailable, 13 are listed on the World Medical Organization’s ‘critical medicines’ list.

Current shortages include nasal sprays, inhalers for the treatment of asthma and 11 different eye drop products, as well as 30 antibiotics, certain strengths of aspirin, some brands of blood pressure tablets and a number of tranquillisers.

Pharmacists, like Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) President Dermot Twomey, who runs the Cloyne Pharmacy in County Cork, say the problem has become more acute in the past 12 to 14 months.

“This time last year it was hormonal replacement therapy medicines, around the wintertime it was antibiotics, in particular – so medicines dip in and out – but for the moment, there are a number of hay fever medicines that have gone short but I suppose the key message really for the public is that there are alternatives available and speak to your pharmacist who will look at what the best alternatives are.”

As President of the IPU, he is urging the Government to consider the introduction of a ‘Serious Shortage Protocol’ like they have in the UK which would allow pharmacists to substitute in areas where certain medicines are short without recourse to the GP.

“That would be good for the patient because it would speed up time. Good for the pharmacist and their team because they would be empowered to do these jobs, so that’s something we are having positive discussions on.”

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