Health crisis | 

Cough syrups and soluble aspirin among 200 vital medicines out of stock in Ireland

As winter illnesses surge, common cold and flu medicines are increasingly difficult to get hold of

Eilish O'

Drugs needed by patients for blood pressure and serious pain are among a range of over 200 medicines now out of stock amid a growing shortage of essential treatments, a new index reveals today.

As winter illnesses surge, common cold and flu medicines are increasingly difficult to get hold of in many pharmacies, the Sunday Worldcan reveal.

But the new index reveals the ongoing wider extent of the problem. Eleven of these medicines are on the World Health Organisation’s “critical medicines list.”

The index, compiled by industry experts Azure Pharmaceuticals, analyses the most up-to-date data published by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), the country’s medicines watchdog.

It shows that 212 medicines are now unavailable, an increase of 25 since last month. Crucially, 40pc of these medicines which are out of stock have just one supplier.

Medicines which are running out of stock include those for respiratory and bacterial infections, strep throat, pneumonia, pain relief and blood pressure.

The index shows “a major shortage of over-the-counter (OTC) cough syrups for both adults and children, with pharmacists left desperate to secure alternatives. Sprays for sore throats, dissolvable paracetamol powder, and soluble aspirin are also widely unavailable”.

Commenting on the latest analysis, Sandra Gannon, managing director of Azure Pharmaceuticals, which is involved in supplying some of the older medicines, said: “For the second month running, we are seeing the scale of medicine shortages in Ireland and resulting impact on patients and those who care for them.

“It is the continuation of a trend that was first evident at the end of 2019 and has been continually worsening in the period since.

“At a time when we are desperately trying to keep people out of our hospitals and provide adequate care in the community, leaving patients without access to their vital treatments has huge knock-on implications for the current crisis in our emergency departments.

“Existing high-level of sicknesses and hospital demand pressures risk being exacerbated further by the medicines shortages problems.”

Antibiotics amoxicillin and penicillin, which are preferred drugs to treat Strep A and other bacterial infections are unavailable.

Strep A is a common germ which mostly causes mild illness like sore throats but in rare cases it can be invasive and life-threatening.

The dangerous invasive Strep A led to 12 deaths here last year, including four children, with the recognition of symptoms and timely treatment crucial.

The is also a shortage of the antibiotic clarithromycin, which is used to combat strep throat and pneumonia.

Also unavailable from any supplier or source is the antibiotic cefalexin, commonly used to treat pneumonia and other chest ailments, skin and urinary tract infections.

With 40pc of the medicines out of stock this month having just a single supplier, pharmacists are left without licensed alternatives for patients.

Among the issues is that the HSE is paying lower prices to manufacturers for some old drugs compared to other countries. It means that Ireland is at a competitive disadvantage when there is a global shortage.

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