Pharmacy Guild rebuked over scare campaign on medicine shortages

A long-time chair of the government’s independent pharmaceutical advisory body has rebuked the powerful pharmacy lobby over a scare campaign about widespread medicine shortages, saying the policy to double the length of prescriptions is in the best interest of millions of Australians.

The Pharmacy Guild has escalated its revolt against the federal government’s decision to increase the medicine a person can collect with each script from one to two months’ supply for more than 320 products treating chronic conditions.

The Pharmacy Guild’s new website escalates concerns about medicine shortages, but the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee says it is not worried.

The reform will halve the price of medicine for millions of Australians suffering conditions such as heart disease, cholesterol, Crohn’s disease and hypertension – but it will also substantially reduce pharmacy income from government handling and dispensing fees.

Local pharmacies warning of medicine shortages are handing customers pamphlets displaying posters of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, directing them to a website to learn more and encouraging them to contact their local MP.

The website, run by the Pharmacy Guild, claims 400 drugs are on the critical shortage list, 20 per cent of which will be unavailable due to the dispensing changes. “Essential medicine is running out and may no longer be available in your pharmacy,” the website says.

Dozens of people have also shared their personal stories online, describing their worry about losing access to essential medicines.

But Emeritus Professor Lloyd Sansom, who chaired the Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Council from 1991 until 2000, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee from 2001 until 2012, has rebuffed the claims in a rare public statement.

“There are a range of factors that drive shortages in Australia and internationally, including shortages of raw materials, logistical difficulties including due to natural disasters or batches of the medicine not meeting quality specifications,” he said.

“However, I do not believe that the phased introduction of this new policy will significantly impact the shortage of those medicines included in this policy initiative.”

That was because the majority of the 320 medicines recommended for 60-day prescribing had no supply shortages, he said. The phased introduction of the scheme – 100 medicines will come on board every six months from September 1 – also meant it was unlikely demand would surge.

“The transition will likely occur over a period of time. This will moderate the demand in the early days of the implementation,” Sansom said.

“Further, co-operation with Medicines Australia and the Generic Medicines Industry Association to ensure an increased availability of stock in anticipation of the introduction should also address transient demand issues.”

Sansom said medicines that could be affected were also mainly brands or formulations for which pharmacists were already managing to find suitable alternatives.

Current Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee chair Professor Andrew Wilson also provided advice on the issue to Health Minister Mark Butler last week.

There are seven medicines on the 60-day dispensing list that are in short supply in Australia without a suitable alternative: Dulaglutide (diabetes), Diltiazem hydrochloride (heart conditions), Eprosartan (hypertension), Nafarelim (endometriosis), Fluorometholone (inflammation in the eyes), Losartan potassium (high blood pressure) and Olsalazine sodium (ulcerative colitis).

However, that is mostly due to manufacturing issues that affect global supply.

Wilson said medicine shortages were determined by factors unrelated to the maximum dispensed quantity, and rarely isolated to Australia.

As a result, he said the independent committee would not change its advice to government, which it originally gave in 2018.

“The number of patients and volume of medicines prescribed will not change significantly as a result of an increase in the maximum quantity,” Wilson wrote to Butler in a letter.

“If there are any impacts on medicine availability related to the implementation of increased maximum quantities these are likely to be short-term, as the system adjusts to a different phasing of the supply of some medicines.”

He said agencies, pharmacies and suppliers typically worked together to minimise the impacts of shortages on patients when they needed to.

“Consequently, the PBAC believes the concerns raised publicly about medicine supply shortages present no reason to change its previous advice,” he said.

“The PBAC considers this change can be safely implemented and will benefit people with stable medical conditions requiring long-term use of the included medicines.”

( Information from was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

Leave a Comment

Share to...