Christmas warning over ongoing medication shortages

Authorities are sounding the alarm over drug shortages that could see thousands of Aussies go without crucial medications over Christmas.

Ongoing drug shortages show no signs of abating before Christmas, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) medicine shortage reports database.

There are 446 medicines affected by shortages or discontinuations, reports. Medicines on the list include common antibiotics, painkillers and antidepressants.

The list also includes amifostine ethyol, a drug used by cancer patients to manage the effects of chemotherapy. Tofranil, used to treat severe depression, is also in short supply.

Many people managing chronic pain will be affected by supply constraints on ARX morphine, a daily painkiller for extreme pain.

The shortages are being blamed on lingering supply chain issues that haven’t been fully resolved from the pandemic, as well as increased demand for some drugs – including the diabetes and weight loss drug Ozempic, which is also on the list.

Another drug under pressure is Vyvanse, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Associate Professor John Kramer, chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioner’s specific interest group on ADHD, says the shortage is only affecting the low dose 20mg and 30mg prescriptions, while larger ones remain unaffected.

But he says this is frustrating as the lower doses are needed when a person is first diagnosed with the condition. It can be dangerous to go straight to higher doses.

Ultimately, this will end up delaying treatment for new adult ADHD patients who need it most.

“It’s difficult for an adult to present, fearing the diagnosis and then wait six, nine, 12 months to see a psychiatrist,” Assoc. Prof. Kramer says.

“This is just adding more delay and more frustration to the whole process.”

What to do if there is a shortage of your medication

The TGA advises if there is a shortage of a medication you need, your first port of call should be your doctor to see if there are TGA-approved alternatives you can switch to temporarily.

If you take a critically important drug for which there is no TGA-approved alternative, you can be granted access to unapproved medicines through the Special Access Scheme.

The TGA, in conjunction with your doctor, can grant access to drugs that have not been approved on a case-by-case basis. You and your doctor must apply to the program, citing evidence for the drug’s use.

In short, this means the drug has to have some scientific data to back up its claims.

Failing that, the TGA says you can try contacting the manufacturer of your medicine directly to inquire about an emergency supply, but be aware you will most likely be competing with thousands of others wanting the same thing.

Do you take any daily medications? Has their supply been affected? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Weight-loss drugs show willpower and self-restraint won’t fix obesity

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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