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Five reasons why your medication is out of stock

Amcal Coffs Harbour
Specialist Medical Centre
5/343 Pacific Highway
Coffs Harbour
NSW, 2450

Phone: (02) 6652 2336

Opening Hours

Monday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Tuesday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Wednesday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Thursday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Friday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Open every day of the year, including public holidays
Amcal Pharmacist in Coffs Harbour explains why medicines are out of stock

What do you mean ‘you don’t have it’?

Five reasons why your medication is out of stock.

July 2020.

This is Australia, we are used to the supermarket shelves full of food, take it for granted that electricity flows to our home, and our health system has medication to treat people.  This, unfortunately, is no longer the case.  And we can’t simply blame Covid-19.

The medication supply chain is a global giant, consisting chemical manufacturers (who make the raw ingredients), drug manufacturers (who turn the ingredients onto medications), international distributers (who package and sell the medications internationally), national wholesalers, buying groups (such as banner groups and pharmacy chains), hospitals and community pharmacies.

This medication supply chain is under immense pressure at the moment, for the following reasons;

  1. Global medical supplies are allocated to regions, like Australasia, often 6-12 months in advance. 
    This means international distributors are ‘guessing’ the demand of particular medication to countries, like Australia, and balancing this against the anticipated demand elsewhere. Sometimes they do not always guess correctly.
  2. A lot of the raw ingredients are manufactured in China.
    Travel and trade restrictions due to Covid-19 may have a flow-on effect on pharmaceutical manufacturers.
  3. Manufacturers and suppliers are choosing to sell medicines overseas where they can make higher profits than selling to Australia.
    Remember in previous years the Governments’ policy of ‘reducing the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) budget; return to surplus’? Government-mandated PBS price reductions mean that Australia now pays less for medication. Whilst this sounds appealing for the individuals taking medication, and appealing for the government who is subsidising this medication on the PBS, this had an unwanted side effect: manufacturers and suppliers are choosing to sell medicines overseas where they can make greater profits than selling to Australia.
  4. Stock hoarding, both from customers and pharmacy buying groups.
    Remember what happened with toilet paper? Same deal. 
  5. Backdoor deals exist between pharmaceutical wholesalers and buying groups to divert all stock to particular stores.
    This is a complex web to untangle, but it is not uncommon for such anti-competitive behaviour to occur between within big-pharma.

Both Community Pharmacies and Hospitals have been experiencing these problems for years, although it is only with the advent of Covod-19 local community pharmacies find themselves at increasingly unable to supply medicines as prescribed.  This means that pharmacists have little choice but to contact the prescriber for an alternative medication, which can result in lengthy waits at the pharmacy and fluctuations in the cost of medicines.

What can you do about it?

  1. Ensure that you do not completely run out of your prescribed medication. Re-fill your prescription when you have at least 5 days remaining.  This allows ample time for alternative brands to be sourced or your doctor to be contacted.
  2. Align yourself with a local pharmacy that has processes to deal with medication shortages and strong relations with doctors.
  3. Have the discussion with your doctor or pharmacist and make a plan, ask “if this prescribed medication is unavailable, is there an alternative and what should I do?”.
  4. Do not stockpile medications, we are all in this together. Remember what happened with toilet paper?

Fortunately, many prescription medications are inexpensive to produce.  Once the global economy enters the post-Covid era, market forces will eventually correct the global supply chain distribution of medicines back to Australia. Unfortunately, this process can take months to years before the effects are realised at a local level.

If you have any queries regarding your medicines, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact us.

Samuel Ledger

Pharmacist – Amcal Coffs Harbour

July 2020

 

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Amcal Coffs Harbour
Specialist Medical Centre
5/343 Pacific Highway
Coffs Harbour
NSW, 2450

Phone: (02) 6652 2336

Opening Hours

Monday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Tuesday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Wednesday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Thursday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Friday
8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Open every day of the year, including public holidays