ECHUCA-MOAMA medical professionals are being forced to find workarounds to a nationwide medication shortage to ensure patients do not go without.
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Echuca Regional Health has six items unavailable long-term, however acting director of medical services and chief medical officer John Gallichio said the situation was not as bad as it was a year ago.
“Australian hospitals have experienced difficulties obtaining stock of a large range of pharmaceuticals in recent years and ERH is certainly no exception,” he said.
The antidepressant drug sertraline and hospital-only drugs Lucrin depot injection and Naropin and fentanyl epidural infusion are among those ERH cannot access.
Dr Gallichio said shortages could be caused by increased demand or stockpiling by the general public and hospitals, and shortfalls in manufacturing of a particular drug.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia has responded by improving information about shortages and streamlining special access to alternatives that are not registered for use in Australia,” he said.
“In Victoria, the state government has organised a stockpile of drugs important in the management of ICU patients – COVID-19 in particular – which is very reassuring for hospitals such as ERH.”
An Echuca woman who takes carbimazole once a day to treat hyperthyroidism has been struggling to access the medication for six months.
“In November, as it got low, I did the rounds of the chemists – one pharmacist got four bottles in and he rationed them, so I got one,” she said.
“At the moment I’ve got a month left and I’m starting to stress out a little bit.
“They kept saying I needed to go to my doctor to get it changed because they didn’t know whether I’d be able to get it after this last lot, but he didn’t really want to change it because it was working so well.”
According to the TGA website, the supply of 5mg tablet bottles of carbimazole has been impacted since June last year and is expected to continue until the end of February.
The patient impact is listed as critical.
Echuca-Moama Family Medical Practice doctor Sue Harrison believes the current shortage is worse than usual.
“The crazy thing is, it’s often really commonly used medications and you would have thought we would have a vague idea of how much of a particular medication we would need in the country,” she said.
“It’s every couple of weeks you realise something else you’re used to easily accessing is no longer available and you have to try and find an alternative – sometimes that’s relatively simple but it’s not always.
“Unfortunately, it does mean we perhaps don’t have the best medication available.”
Dr Harrison said while an alternative medication might be just as adequate, it wasn’t ideal to disrupt a patient’s medication routine – especially for older patients.
“The problem is it’s often things we use really commonly, so there’s often a number of people affected,” she said.
“I have had patients scour the region and some of the pharmacies in small towns have had stocks available, so we’ve been able to get a month or two’s worth.
“I don’t know what the answer is to it - Australia is too big not to have a manufacturing industry,” she said.
Moama Village Pharmacy pharmacist Clint Flanigan said every pharmacy in Australia was being affected.
“Over the past 10 years, from time-to-time medicines have been unavailable and recently we’ve noticed certain medicines have been out for longer periods which has caused some concern,” he said.
“It’s rare every strength of a particular medicine is unavailable so in most cases we’re able to get around the situation by either editing strength or dose types.
“We’re normally advised of medicine shortages before they occur and it allows us to try and carry enough stock.
“What I’d suggest to most people if they have any concerns then have a chat with their pharmacy.”
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