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Medicine shortages: Dept Health says 'numerous alternatives available to ensure continuity of care'

Figures released today showed that three out of five patients have experienced medicine shortages in the last 12 months.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health has moved to reassure members of the public concerned by medicine shortages that there are numerous alternatives available to ensure continuity of care. 

The Department said that while individual brands or stengths of a medication may be temporarily unavailable, for the vast majority of medicines “there are appropriate substitutions such as different strengths, brands or similar classes of medicines”. 

“With respect to the various commonly-used medications listed in today’s press coverage that have been notified to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), where a patient has any disruptions to their routine branded supply, continuity of treatment can be assured through the use of alternative products,” it said. 

The Department released its statement this evening after figures released today showed that three out of five patients have experienced medicine shortages in the last 12 months. 

The survey of 1,200, conducted by Amárach Research and commissioned by Azure Pharmaceuticals, found that over half of people said they were told on more than one occasion by a pharmacist in the last 12 months that the medicine they were seeking was not in stock. 

48% of people reported a high level of concern about the scarcity of various medicines. 

Out of the patients who encountered medicine supply issues at a pharmacy, 44% had difficulties obtaining prescription medicine, 24% faced issues with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, and 31% encountered shortages for both types of medications.

In its statement this evening, the Department of Health said: “The Medicines Shortages Framework, operated by the HPRA on behalf of the Department of Health, aims to prevent, where possible, and mitigate the impact of medicines shortages through close collaboration with the Department, HSE, industry and healthcare professionals.”

Earlier today, Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane called on the Government to take urgent action to tackle medicine shortages.

Cullinane also called on the Government to think “radically” about how the State manages and ensures a consistent supply of medicines. 

“The medicines shortage being experienced today is, in large part, a consequence of a failure in planning and in industrial development policy. Global shortages play a role but these have been known for some time and have been coming down the tracks. Government has not reacted,” he said. 

He added that government has a responsibility to ensure that domestic supply chains and production, appropriately flexible pricing arrangements, and a rapid licensing process for substitute products are all in place.

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