Ireland's medicines shortage is now “worse than ever before,” according to a leading pharmacist and podcaster.
The latest Medicine Shortages Index released today shows there are now 332 medicines in short supply in Ireland.
The index, compiled by Azure Pharmaceuticals, shows that the number of medicines facing shortages is up 90% on the 178 reported this time last year.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, Cork pharmacist Sheena Mitchell outlined the medicines that have been most affected.
“Shortages are widespread across many of the antibiotics,” she said.
“It’s also widespread for eyedrops and we’re seeing big issues with trying to get any steroid cream medication, or generally with painkillers.
“There’s been intermittent issues with various IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) medications which is particularly stressful for patients – it’s time sensitive.”
Ms Mitchell said acquiring ADHD medication was also another major issue.
“We are experiencing an awful lot of shortages there with one particular brand but that has now had an overflow effect into other available brands.
“Prescribers are having to change to the second or third option and that has put undue pressure on those brands. We’re seeing this across the board really.”
Pharmacists have done their best to protect patients from shortages up until now, according to Ms Mitchell.
“They [pharmacists] were able to hide it a little bit by either absorbing some of the costs of alternative medicines or by substituting different strength medicines,” she said.
“But now it has become very difficult to do that even and it’s created a very difficult situation for pharmacists and patients alike.”
Ms Mitchell said the problem is exacerbated by the control one company has over the Irish medicine market.
“We have one supplier for medicines which are under patent and generic companies can't manufacture them,” she said.
“One solution would be a reduction in patent time for medicines – it would ease some of the shortages.
“This would mean a company that does have the patent would have it for less years exclusively so that other companies could manufacture it too.”
The CEO of Azure Pharmaceuticals Sandra Gannon, has called on Ireland to follow suit with other European countries to protect the supply of medicine.
“Other European countries like Germany, the UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, and others have implemented a spectrum of domestic policy measures to safeguard their national interests,” she said.
“These countries have demonstrated foresight in addressing the potential vulnerabilities in their healthcare systems.”
Ms Gannon claimed there has been a lack of Government response in Ireland, “despite the gravity of the situation”.
She called on policymakers to take action to ensure Ireland does not run out of vital medicines before it is too late.