GROWING concerns are being voiced over increasing medicine shortages, with one Cork pharmacist describing how pharmacists are having to sometimes now go to significant lengths just to try to source medicines for their patients.
Caitríona O'Riordan from O'Riordan's Pharmacy in Enniskeane said that while medicine shortages are an issue that pharmacists have always had to deal with, that the problem has become much worse in the last 12 months.
The West Cork pharmacist described how she recently had to go to significant lengths to source medicine for a patient who was undergoing treatment for cancer when the drug they were prescribed went into short supply.
This involved contact with prescribers and suppliers, and daily calls to check on the status of the medicine getting to her pharmacy.
“This patient was facing a break in their chemotherapy if I couldn't get the drug,” she explained.
Ms O’Riordan explained how drugs can sometimes go out of stock because they are withdrawn from the Irish market.
She explained how when this happens, a patient may be switched to alternative medicine or a combination of medicines, but said sometimes the alternative option can then also go into short supply.
“It can be like a domino effect,” she said.
Ms O’Riordan said that when working in a caring profession you are conscious of not stressing that patient out by the issue but admitted "you feel like you are constantly chasing your tail."
The issue is one which the Cork pharmacist said she feels is multi-faceted, but is being impacted by the low price of medicines in Ireland.
Ms O'Riordan is not alone in this view and a new survey of its members by Irish Pharmacy Union shows that 55 per cent of pharmacists believe that HSE pricing policy is contributing to shortages.
The Union has now asked the Department of Health and the HSE to look at its pricing of medicine.
Darragh O’Loughlin, Secretary General of the IPU said: “In Ireland we take a cost-based approach rather than being focussed on patients, which has resulted in significant reductions in medicine prices. However, too often that means when a global shortage emerges Ireland is at the back of queue, as a small country that is constantly driving down the price of medicines and unwilling to pay market prices.” He added: “The Department of Health and the HSE need to take a realistic and pragmatic approach to medicine pricing to ensure that Irish patients do not end up going without as a result of a fixation on ever-lower prices.” The survey of members found that overall more than 97 cent of the country’s community pharmacists had observed an increase in medicine shortages over the past 12 months and more than nine in ten pharmacists believe medicine shortages will get worse this year.
Some 48 per cent believe their patients could suffer adverse outcomes as a result of these shortages.