Pharmacists are reporting a nationwide shortage of antibiotics used to treat infections such as pneumonia and strep throat.
Antibiotics such as amoxicillin are in short supply due to problems securing shipments from manufacturers overseas.
The shortage coincides with a jump in invasive group A streptococcal infections among children.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration issued an alert last month saying it was aware of a shortage of amoxicillin, cefalexin and metronidazole.
Pharmacy Guild NSW vice-president Adele Tahan said a number of antibiotics were proving difficult for pharmacies to source.
“There are quite a significant number of antibiotics that are in short supply and they will remain so for quite some time,” she said.
“It’s quite serious when a patient, especially a child, requires a particular antibiotic with a particular dose for a specific infection. We need to make sure that patients receive that medication on time.”
Melbourne pharmacist Andrew Farmer said he was having to come up with alternatives in order to meet the shortfall in medications.
“A customer might be prescribed a 500mg capsule and we have to give them 250mg capsules. They have to take twice as many, but even that’s not available now,” he said.
“So, we’re unable to give them anything and we just do our best to help the doctor and the patient, make sure that there is something we can give them.”
Difficulties securing supply from overseas
Ms Tahan said the issues affecting Australian supplies of antibiotics were mostly logistical and not related to any increase in demand.
“Australia doesn’t produce many medications here. We allow about 90 per cent of what we use here to come from overseas,” she said.
“We have to rely on worldwide supply and unfortunately the situation right now is that we’re waiting for the antibiotics to become available.”
She said part of the problem was that the price of antibiotics in Australia had dropped and it was no longer a key market for many manufacturers.
“Australia’s not an attractive place for medicines to come to us. The American market is a massive market and the prices charged in America are much higher than what we can charge in Australia.
“It makes us the last country for medicine to come here.”
The Pharmacy Guild said Australia accounted for just 2 per cent of the glocal pharmaceutical market.
Ms Tahan said if patients were not able to secure their prescribed medication from pharmacies they should go back to their GP to discuss alternatives.
“There’s no need for concern. What they need to do is work with their prescribers, their doctors, and speak to the local pharmacist about available treatments.”
© 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
ABC Content Disclaimer