SUPPLIES of more than 200 kinds of vital medication, from cough bottles to drugs to treat people with psychiatric illnesses, have run out, a Limerick pharmacist has confirmed.
Stocks of the most effective targeted antibiotics for respiratory infections have been cleared off the shelves and there have been no supplies coming in, Niall O’Sullivan of O’Sullivan’s pharmacies told the Limerick Post.
“The last few weeks, with a huge spike in flu and respiratory infections, have exacerbated the problem and we are having to resort to broad spectrum antibiotics instead of drugs such as Amoxicillin and Penicillin,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Other medications, including drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders, have been difficult to keep in supply for some time now and pharmacists and GPs are running out of options.
“You can really draw a ring around Brexit. A large amount of our medication comes from France and Germany,”he explained.
“When the UK was part of the EU, they had a bigger market to supply. But the UK is no longer in the EU and, if you think about it, the greater Manchester area has more people using long-term medication than the whole of Ireland.
“As an English speaking country, we came under the umbrella of the UK for suppliers, but now it’s not economically viable for suppliers to supply us.”
While Ireland still qualifies to import medicines licensed in the EU, the country is subject to specific requirements (such as English-language packaging and instructions), which are no longer profitable for pharmaceutical companies who have lost the economies of scale that supplying the UK provided.
Even over the counter medicines such as cough bottles and throat sprays have run out, the Limerick pharmacist said.
“We are out of stock of 27 cold and flu medicines from one supplier alone. One of the lingering effects of Covid and other respiratory infections is a dry cough and we just can’t get cough bottles for that right now.
“We’re having to tell people to use children’s medications and double the dose for adults. We’re doing our best to find alternatives but it can be quite frustrating for customers,” Mr O’Sullivan said
“And while the last eight weeks has seen a run on so many vital medications due to the huge rise in flu and respiratory infections, the problem pre-dates the spike.
“This has been going for quite a while. The problem is the supply chain. There are less than a handful of companies making Amoxicillin, for example, and one of those has dropped out of the market putting even more pressure on the others. It’s an on-going problem.”
Latest research from the pharmaceutical industry has shown there are 212 products unavailable.
The medicines experiencing shortages are for use across a range of health conditions, including respiratory and bacterial infections, strep throat, pneumonia, pain relief, and blood pressure.
The Medicine Shortage Index, prepared by industry experts Azure Pharmaceuticals, analyses the most up-to-date data published by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).