Ireland’s drug shortages worsening

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Drug shortages in Ireland have increased during the last 12 months, according to a recent survey of pharmacists in the country.

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The survey, carried out by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which represents community pharmacists in Ireland, showed that shortages of prescription medicines are widespread in Ireland.

The survey was carried out in June 2013 and included 200 pharmacists. The results highlighted significant level of drug shortages, with 98% of respondents having noticed shortages in the last 12 months. There also appears to be no sign of improvement in drug shortages in the country, with 91% of pharmacists reporting that shortages had increased in the last 12 months and with 93% anticipating an increase in the next 12 months. A significant amount of time is being spent on resolving drug shortages by pharmacists, with an average of 8 hours per month being spent on this issue by pharmacy staff. Finally the survey revealed that 44% of pharmacists believe that patients’ health outcomes have been adversely affected by drug shortages.

The IPU concluded that there has been a significant increase in drug shortages in Ireland over the past 12 months and warned that the shortages pose a risk to the health of patients. The Union is calling on the Irish Department of Health to take action to ensure that patients receive the medicines they need.

The IPU has also warned that the introduction of reference pricing as part of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012 will only exacerbate the situation, particularly if the reference price is set too low. The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which represents brand-name drugmakers, has pointed out, however, that the key provisions of the state/IPHA supply agreement, which was renewed in October 2012, are designed to ensure continuity of supply of medicines as far as is possible. They also add that most drug shortages arise as a result of manufacturing issues or as a result of parallel trading.

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Source: IPU, IPHA

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