The Dutch are stockpiling medicines – should we do the same here?

The Dutch government yesterday announced it will begin to stockpile medicines in the face of expected shortages as well as spearhead a drive to restart wholesale manufacturing of drugs in Europe once again.

Netherlands’ Minister for Medical Care, Bruno Bruins, made the announcement saying the government would start work on building up 5 months worth of stock of 85 per cent of the medicines currently in short supply.

“I think that in a country like the Netherlands, where healthcare is of a high standard, medicines must always be available”, Minister Bruins told the NL Times. “The creation of this iron stock prevents patients standing with empty hands at the counter of the pharmacy. It reduces a large part of the deficits. In addition, there is more room for the pharmacist to focus on patient care rather than on the daily search for other medicines.”

The news comes in the wake of reports that the UK is also stockpiling medications in anticipation of Brexit. UK Pharmacies have been told to expect 6-12 month shortages for 200 of the most-prescribed drugs on the market.

Matthew Bellgrove from National Custom Compounding in Queensland said his pharmacy received requests to make up unavailable medications on a daily basis.

“We can do this as we’re a compounding pharmacy – legally we can make up medications from scratch during drug shortages,” Matthew said, “However there aren’t enough reputable compounding pharmacies to make up the shortfall in Australia if the situation rapidly deteriorates. The sector would be too small to keep up with demand.”

Minister Buins said he will be talking to his counterparts in other European countries to re-establish a European-based drug manufacturing sector to reduce dependence on drugs manufactured in Asia.

Mr Bellgrove said this was something that all countries around the world, including Australia, should be considering, especially in the light of the current trade war between the U.S and China.

“Currently 85% of the world’s medicines are manufactured in Asia,” he said, “If something falters in the supply line the repercussions for health could be very serious.”

“The prudent course of action would be to start developing our own drug manufacturing sector here in Australia. In the meantime my compounding pharmacy, and others like it, will continue making up supplies of unavailable medicines to help medical practitioners continue to deliver a high level of care to their patients.”

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