It’s not just lettuce, critical medications are also in short supply

Floods may have decimated vegetable crops in Australia, however it’s the ricochet of worldwide pandemic-related issues that is now depleting pharmacy shelves of some of their most popular and important medications. And as tensions continue with China – the world’s largest and most dominant producer of pharmaceuticals – that situation may only get worse.

As of 16 August 2022, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) listed 346 medicines as being in limited supply in Australia, with 42 of those deemed ‘Critical’. Some of these drugs are heavily employed by health professionals to treat diabetes, prevent stroke, and reduce the risk of bacterial infection. Other drugs are used in the treatment of cancer, mental health issues and symptoms of menopause. Common off-the-shelf cold and flu medications also make the list.

What’s the solution?

The TGA provides a list of alternative drugs to fill the gap while we wait – in some cases 6 months or more – for commercial supplies to return to normal, however as Dr Anita Muñoz, the Chair of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) points out, substitution also comes with its own set of problems.

‘If we’ve got medications that are working with minimal side effects for someone, it really is problematic to have to change those regimens even temporarily because of the impact on control, or because of the impact on side effects.’ Dr Muñoz said.

‘There’s many months of pulling rabbits out of hats to come up with solutions for patients and to work with pharmacists to choose alternatives,’ she said.
Dr Muñoz is also concerned that changing medications increases the risk of mistakes being made with dosages and for potential adverse drug interactions for those taking multiple medications.
‘Chopping and changing and making last-minute changes can confuse patients, and only increases the chances that medication misadventure will happen. Dr Muñoz said.
Medications can be made in Australia

Matthew Bellgrove, Head Pharmacist at National Custom Compounding in Queensland agreed with Dr Muñoz, saying switching medications in times of shortage was not an ideal solution.

“Australia has a highly regulated and reputable compounding pharmacy sector, with specialist pharmacists who can make up many medications, right here, locally, when the overseas manufacturers don’t deliver,” Mr Bellgrove said.

“Patients don’t have to change their medication, they can present a script to a compounding pharmacy and get their medication made up right here in Australia.

“This option avoids trial-and-error and potential for side effects that Dr Muñoz is rightly concerned about. When we tell our customers that we can make up their medication locally, the sense of relief they feel is evident.”

Mr Bellgrove said anyone who’s been told they may have to switch medications due to medicine shortages, should speak to their doctor about the possibility of getting their medication compounded by a reliable compounding pharmacy.

“Our compounding pharmacy, and others like it, make up compounded medication for customers on a daily basis, and we’ve been doing it safely and effectively for many decades in Australia” Mr Bellgrove said.

“All we need is a script from a doctor and we can help keep people on their treatment plan with little interruption.”

For more information on having medication compounded during medication shortages please contact National Custom Compounding at [email protected] or call 1300 731 755.

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