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COVID-19 limits on dispensing and sales at pharmacies

Information for consumers

19 March 2020

On 1 July 2020, we published a statement indicating that childrens' liquid paracetamol products can return to the front of counter. However, dispensing limits still apply.

Access to medicines is critical, particularly during difficult circumstances such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. In order to ensure fair and equitable access, community pharmacies will be enforcing limits on dispensing and sales of certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines and may apply limits to other products.

In response to COVID-19, demand for medicines increased markedly during the first two weeks of March. This has resulted in pharmacies and wholesalers reporting numerous product lines being out of stock.

Pharmaceutical companies have advised the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) that they do not anticipate imminent or widespread national-level medicine shortages due to potential impacts of COVID-19 on their manufacturing or logistics. However, if current levels of demand through excessive purchasing (stockpiling) continue, supply interruptions will occur at both the local and national levels.

In response, pharmacists will be required to limit dispensing of certain prescription medicines to a one-month supply at the prescribed dose, and sales of certain over-the-counter medicines to a maximum of one unit per purchase. These limits apply to particular classes of medicines for which unavailability or an interruption to treatment could cause significant health impacts, or that are expected to be subject to increased demand during this pandemic.

The list (see 'Affected products' below) includes over-the-counter medicines such as glyceryl trinitrate, adrenaline autoinjectors (EpiPens) and salbutamol inhalers, as well as prescription products such as asthma and COPD medicines, insulins and other diabetes medicines, and medicines for epilepsy. Other medicines may be added to the list in the coming weeks.

Salbutamol inhalers (such as Ventolin, Asmol and Airomir puffers) have been in high demand from patients. To ensure access for patients who require these reliever medicines to treat symptoms of asthma and COPD, pharmacists will have to confirm that patients requesting salbutamol puffers over-the-counter have a relevant diagnosis from a doctor and will label the product indicating to whom it has been dispensed.

Additionally, pharmacies will also be placing children's paracetamol liquid formulations (see 'Affected products' below) behind the counter to assist in allocating those products equitably.

Pharmacists are also being strongly encouraged to limit dispensing and sales of all therapeutic goods generally to a one-month supply or one unit.

The TGA advises consumers to resist the urge to stockpile medicines unnecessarily. If you have any questions or concerns about continued supply of your medicine, speak to your health professional.

Affected products

Medicines where interrupted supply could result in serious health consequences

Prescription Non-prescription
  • Analgesics
  • Anaphylaxis treatment
  • Anti-anginals
  • Anti-arrhythmics
  • Anti-coagulants
  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-diarrhoeals
  • Anti-epileptics
  • Anti-hypertensives
  • Anti-parkinson drugs
  • Anti-platelets
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Anti-virals
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cancer/Palliative care medicines
  • Diuretics
  • Endocrine medicines
  • Gastrointestinal medicines
  • Glaucoma eye drops
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Insulins
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Oral hypoglycaemics
  • Respiratory medicines
  • Adrenaline autoinjector
  • Chloramphenicol eye drops/ointment
  • GTN
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Naloxone
  • Salbutamol

Medicines that may be subject to increased demand due to COVID-19 symptom management

Prescription Non-prescription
  • Anti-infectives (anti-biotics)
  • Asthma/COPD medicines
  • Cystic Fibrosis medicines
  • Influenza medicines
  • Oxygen
  • Vaccines
  • Antihistamines
  • Aspirin
  • Cough suppressants
  • Decongestants
  • Expectorants
  • Ibuprofen
  • Mucolytics
  • Paracetamol
  • Throat preparations (lozenges, gargles)

Children's paracetamol liquid formulations (these are the products currently approved in Australia, but some may not currently be marketed)

  • AMCAL Children's Paracetamol Elixir for 1 to 5 Years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • AMCAL Children's Paracetamol Suspension for 6 to 12 Years paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • AMCAL Paracetamol Colour Free Infant Drops paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • APOHEALTH Children's Paracetamol 1 month to 2 years Infant drops paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • APOHEALTH Children's Paracetamol 1 to 5 years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • APOHEALTH Children's Paracetamol 6 to 12 years paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • CA Children's Paracetamol 1-5 Years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • CA Children's Paracetamol 6 - 12 Years 48 mg/mL oral liquid suspension bottle
  • Chemists' Own Paracetamol Pain & Fever Drops 1 Month - 2 Years 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle (new formulation)
  • Chemists' Own Paracetamol Pain & Fever Drops - 1 Month to 2 Years 100 mg/mL oral liquid solution btt
  • Chemists' Own Children's Paracetamol Pain & Fever Suspension - 1 to 5 Years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Chemists' Own Children's Paracetamol Pain And Fever Suspension 5 to 12 Years paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Children's Panadol 1 - 5 Years Colourfree Suspension paracetamol 24mg/mL bottle
  • Children's Panadol 1 - 5 Years Elixir paracetamol 24mg/mL bottle
  • Children's Panadol 5 - 12 Years Colourfree Suspension paracetamol 48 mg/mL bottle
  • Cipla Pain Relief For Kids Paracetamol 6 - 12 years Suspension paracetamol 50 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Cipla Pain Relief For Little Kids Paracetamol Drops 1 month to 2 years paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Dymadon Paracetamol for Babies paracetamol 50 mg/mL orange flavour oral liquid bottle
  • Dymadon Paracetamol for Babies paracetamol 50 mg/mL strawberry flavour oral liquid bottle
  • Dymadon Paracetamol for Kids paracetamol 50 mg/mL orange flavour oral liquid bottle
  • Dymadon Paracetamol for Kids paracetamol 50 mg/mL strawberry flavour oral liquid bottle
  • Febridol 240 Suspension for Children 6 to 12 Years paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Febridol Syrup for Children 1 to 5 Years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Logicin Pain And Fever Infant Drops 100 mg/mL oral liquid solution bottle
  • Mendeleev Children's 1 Month - 2 Years Paracetamol Drops 100 mg/mL oral liquid - solution bottle
  • Mendeleev Children's Paracetamol 1 - 5 Years 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Mendeleev Children's Paracetamol 6 - 12 Years 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Pamol (Strawberry) Oral Suspension Colour Free 250 mg/5mL
  • Panadol Children 1 Month - 1 Year paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Panadol Children 1 Month - 1 Year paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle (Dropper)
  • Panadol Children 5 - 12 Years Elixir paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Panamax 240 Elixir paracetamol 240mg/5mL oral liquid bottle
  • Panamax Elixir paracetamol 120mg/5mL oral liquid bottle
  • Parapaed 1 to 5 Years paracetamol 24mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Parapaed Six Plus paracetamol 50 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Pharmacy Choice Children's Paracetamol 1 Month to 2 Years Infant Drops paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Pharmacy Choice Children's Paracetamol Suspension Concentrated 6 - 12 YEARS paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Pharmacy Choice Children's Paracetamol Syrup 1 - 5 Years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid suspension bottle
  • Pharmacy Health Paracetamol Colour Free Infants and Children Drops 1 Month-4 Years 100 mg/mL oral liquid - solution bottle
  • Priceline Colour Free Paracetamol Infant Drops 100mg/mL oral liquid - solution bottle
  • Soul Pattinson Colour Free Paracetamol Drops 100 mg/mL oral liquid - solution bottle
  • Terrywhite Chemmart Paracetamol Colour Free Infant Drops paracetamol 100 mg/mL oral liquid-solution bottle
  • Trust For Kids Paracetamol 1 to 5 Years paracetamol 24 mg/mL oral liquid bottle
  • Trust For Kids Paracetamol 6 to 12 Years paracetamol 48 mg/mL oral liquid bottle