PBS medicines shortage – what you need to know

You may have noticed when you pick up your medicines from your local pharmacy, that the brand of medicine you normally get has changed, perhaps more than once, over a relatively short period of time.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has written to us regarding what it describes as “the ongoing supply shortages of medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).”

It advises that the shortages will affect the public, from “modest” inconvenience to possible treatment interruption.

As a result, health care providers including doctors and pharmacists may have to find substitutes to ensure that a patient is supplied with an essential medicine.

This may mean:

  • the brand you are supplied with is different to what you usually use
  • the pharmacy may not have any brands in stock, is awaiting resupply and may ask you to return at a later time to collect it; or
  • if no other substitutions can be found, there may be a need to consult your doctor to discuss an alternative to the medicine that is unavailable.

The Guild says the shortage is not the fault of Pharmacists not managing their stock.

It says it is the result of supply disruptions over the past year with a range of PBS medicines, including antibiotics and antidepressants, as well as medicines for angina and blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s Disease.

In an effort to manage the shortages, pharmacists are having to source medicines from alternate wholesalers, or even neighbouring pharmacies and hospitals.

The Guild explains that pharmacists “may need to supply different brands than they would normally stock, and sometimes when there are no alternative brands available, they work with prescribers to identify a different medicine suitable for the patient.”

If you are experiencing problems accessing medicines you have been prescribed, speak to your pharmacist or doctor to discuss alternatives.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration also has a shortages line and an email address to report incidences of medicines shortages: medicine.shortages@health.gov.au

You can also phone (02) 6232 8850.

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