Antibiotics in short supply in Australia – what’s the solution?

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On Monday (12 December 2022) the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced that three commonly prescribed antibiotics – amoxicillin, cefalexin and metronidazole – were in short supply in Australia and that they would to patients without approval from the patient’s doctor.

The TGA says the shortage is expected to last for at least three months and in the interim doctors are being encouraged to prescribe alternative brands.

This is the last in a long line of medicine shortages affecting not just Australia, but countries around the world. The pharmaceutical companies responsible for this latest round of shortages have cited problems with manufacturing and ‘an unexpected increase in demand’ as the cause of the supply disruption, however the cause of the ‘unexpected demand’ is less clear.

With up to 90 per cent of medications prescribed in Australia coming from a very small cohort of manufacturers in China and India, medication shortages have been increasingly common over the past 10 years. Limited diversity in the supply chain means that when one manufacturer experiences a disruption – for example a mechanical break-down or natural disaster – it ricochets down the line and all countries around the world feel the effects.  Supply chain and transportation issues triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic have only exacerbated the problem.

In this latest instance, there are alternative medications that can be used in place of the three antibiotics in short supply, but there have been situations in the past when supply disruption has occurred for a medication where good alternatives weren’t so readily available. And it’s sure to happen again.

What’s the answer?

The government is aware of this issue and has set up a task force to kick-start pharmaceutical manufacturing in this country, however the real benefits of this will not be felt for many years to come. While we wait for the fledgling new industry sector to hit its straps there is an alternative that can alleviate the pressure on constrained pharmaceutical supply; and that alternative is compounded medication.

Compounded medication is essentially old-school pharmacy; medication that is hand-made, to-order, by specially trained compounding pharmacists. They make the medication from scratch using the highest quality ingredients to a formula prescribed by a medical practitioner. When medications become unavailable, for whatever reason, a compounding pharmacy can step up and formulate that medication for people in need.

Whenever there’s a medication shortage in Australia, National Custom Compounding can help. We can make up many medications often within 24 hours of receipt of the order. For more information and no obligation advice contact us on 1300 731 755 or [email protected].

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