You are here

Accessing medicines during a shortage

20 May 2020

We recognise that medicine shortages can be very difficult for Australians who rely on medicines for their health and wellbeing. We publish information about medicine shortages so that consumers and health professionals can make plans for managing during a shortage. We also administer a number of access pathways that can be used during a shortage.

For many medicines, there is more than one brand available. Your pharmacist will often be able to supply a different brand if the brand you have been taking is unavailable.

In some instances there are no alternative brands of the same medicine available in Australia, or there may be insufficient supplies of alternative brands. If this is the case, your doctor or pharmacist can provide reliable and practical assistance. They can recommend an alternative medicine or treatment, or may be able to arrange supply of a replacement product from overseas through one of the TGA’s access schemes.

Access options

To check if a medicine is affected by a national shortage, you can search our medicine shortage reports database. The reports in our database include information about how long the shortage is expected to last and any actions the supplier or the TGA has taken to manage the shortage.

Even if there is a national shortage of a medicine, you should check with your pharmacist to see if they can obtain some for you. Individual pharmacies may still have stock of a medicine in shortage, or sponsors may have arrangements for supplying medicines for individual patients.

Sometimes a medicine may be unavailable at your local pharmacies but is not listed as being in shortage on the TGA website. This is usually because there is adequate supply of the medicine in Australia to meet the normal or projected demand but pharmacy stock has run out before the next delivery to pharmacies has arrived. You can ask your pharmacist to contact their wholesalers or the sponsor to find out when more stock will be available or if they can provide advice on how to obtain your medicine.

If a medicine appears in the medicine shortages reports database, one of the following options may be included under the management actions for that shortage:

  • an alternative medicine registered in another country that can be included in the Section 19A database
  • a suitable alternative unregistered medicine may be accessible through the Special Access Scheme (SAS)
  • a Serious Shortage Substitution Notice (SSSN) may apply, which outlines alternative products (for example, a different strength or dosage form of the same medicine) that could be substituted by a pharmacist.

Other options for accessing alternative medicines or treatment during a shortage include:

  • obtaining an alternative product through the Personal Importation Scheme 
  • your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine if a suitable one is available.

Some alternative access pathways can involve increased costs for consumers. Medicines accessed through the SAS cannot be subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Section 19A products may be subsidised through the PBS if the ARTG-registered product in shortage is already subsidised and the Section 19A sponsor makes an application to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC). The TGA cannot compel the sponsor to make such an application.