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TGA cautions against over-buying medicines

16 March 2020

In response to COVID-19, the TGA is aware that some pharmacists have been over-ordering medicines, while many consumers have been over-buying. This has resulted in some temporary local level out-of-stock situations, which we expect will resolve in the coming week or two.

It is important to understand that a local out-of-stock is not a national medicine shortage.

Medicine shortages often stem from the manufacturer not being able to meet projected consumer demand for a period of time. Local out-of-stocks are usually caused by a sudden and unexpected increase in demand at a local level.

The large spike in orders from some pharmacies has resulted in other pharmacies not getting the stock they need. This means that consumers may be unable to get the medicines they need.

Stockpiling medicines may disrupt access to vital medicines by patients and pharmacies.

We call on consumers not to purchase more medicines than they need, and we urge health professionals to reassure patients that there is no need to buy more than is necessary. Health professionals should also avoid prescribing or dispensing multiple months of supply of prescription medicines to patients where there is no clinical need to do so.

We call on pharmacists to avoid over ordering medicines, to help ensure that medicines are available to all Australians who need them.

The Department of Health is closely monitoring medicines supply, and working with sponsors, wholesalers and health professional groups to identify and address issues relating to supply.

Australian law requires medicines companies to report current and anticipated shortages of prescription medicines and certain over-the-counter medicines.

We publish shortage notifications for the information of health professionals and consumers, which you can find on the Medicine Shortages Information Initiative web page.

Sponsors are required to report all shortages of reportable medicines. To date, the TGA has not been notified of any medicine shortage as a direct result of the coronavirus.