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No shortage of salbutamol asthma inhalers

10 January 2020

Despite the increased demand for asthma inhalers (puffers) due to bushfires and smoke, there continues to be adequate stock available in Australia.

Salbutamol is an important medicine for the relief of respiratory symptoms associated with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases. Salbutamol inhalers are marketed in Australia under the trade names Ventolin, Asmol and Airomir and are available with or without a prescription.

The TGA has been in close contact with the Australian sponsors of salbutamol inhalers (GlaxoSmithKline Australia, Alphapharm and iNova Pharmaceuticals (Australia)) and all reported they had sufficient stock to meet current demand. Sponsors continue to receive regular supplies of salbutamol inhalers and arrangements such as expedited delivery to and within Australia have been implemented.

Medicine deliveries have continued as normal throughout most of Australia and salbutamol inhalers and other important medicines remain available in pharmacies.

In a small number of areas where routine supply has been impaired due to bushfires cutting roads and transport links, emergency services are working to support availability of medicines through pharmacies and evacuation centres. Sponsors are also closely monitoring the situation and working with emergency agencies to support the supply of salbutamol inhalers to impacted areas.

We recognise that some people evacuated from their houses may have lost their salbutamol medication or prescription. For this reason, the TGA has granted permission for pharmacies to advertise that:

  • people with asthma or COPD can obtain salbutamol puffers or dry powder inhalers from a particular pharmacy; and
  • people with asthma or COPD can obtain salbutamol puffers or dry powder inhalers from pharmacies with or without prescription if necessary.

The permission also extends to salbutamol advertising activities conducted or facilitated by evacuation centres and other places dealing with displaced people. It also permits advertising that reminds people with asthma or COPD to, in the event of an evacuation, remember to take any salbutamol medicines that they have and any scripts they have for salbutamol.

Information for consumers

There is adequate stock of salbutamol inhalers in Australia and it is not necessary to stockpile or over-order these products.

You should speak with your pharmacist or doctor if you are having difficulty in obtaining your usual medicine. If you have an action plan for management of your respiratory condition, refer to this, and if you have questions or concerns regarding your health or your medicines, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

If you have not previously used a salbutamol inhaler and you are experiencing symptoms, you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist who can advise whether the treatment is right for you.

Smoke and increased air pollution from bushfires, which are currently being experienced in many areas of Australia, can trigger respiratory symptoms. However, increasing symptoms may be a sign that additional management is needed. If you are experiencing worsening symptoms you should seek medical attention. In an emergency, you should call 000.

Salbutamol in the form of metered dose aerosols (puffers) or dry powders for inhalation is available from pharmacies in Australia with or without prescription. If you usually get your salbutamol puffer or inhaler on prescription, but have lost it, talk to your pharmacist - you will be able to get an emergency supply without a prescription.