Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Department of Health
Medicinal Products Availability
173. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the shortage of the drug Augmentin in pharmacies here; if he is concerned with the impact this shortage will have on patients, in particular on patients who find Augmentin to be the only successful drug in this regard; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that pharmacists are reporting that this drug will not now be available until October 2014; if he will detail the steps being taken to tackle the shortage of this drug and other vital drugs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43880/13]
My Department has recently been advised of an impending shortage of two strengths of Augmentin, a widely used antibiotic. These are the 375mg and the 625mg strengths. A shortage of the 375mg tablet is anticipated from November 2013 and a shortage of the 625mg tablet is anticipated from January 2014.
According to the manufacturers, GlaxosmithKline (GSK) who advised health professionals on 27th September of the situation, the shortage arises due to a combination of manufacturing problems at two manufacturing sites in the UK. At the same time there has been an increase in demand. The shortage is anticipated to last up to Quarter 3 2014.
The shortage is likely to impact not just in Ireland but also in the UK and Europe. GSK has introduced stock management measures to avoid stockpiling of remaining stocks in a number of markets, including Ireland and the UK.
The HSE and the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) have been engaged with GSK and other suppliers to manage the supply problem and to identify alternative sources of supply. There is one Irish generic manufacturer of co-amoxiclav products which obtains its supplies from a manufacturer other than GSK and the IMB is currently checking with this company to see if it can increase its supply to the Irish market.
In addition the IMB has been engaging with Irish manufacturers of co-amoxiclav to see if products manufactured for other markets can be made available on the Irish market or indeed if products manufactured outside of Ireland could also be made available for the Irish market.
The HSE has also been engaging with clinical experts to develop prescribing guidelines for clinicians and other health professionals both within hospitals and primary care to identify alternative treatment regimes so that patient care is not compromised in any way.
As there are a number of other antibiotics that could be prescribed as alternatives to Augmentin, the HSE is working on developing clinical guidelines for prescribers on prescribing suitable alternatives. This is also an opportunity to emphasise to prescribers that antiobiotics may not be an appropriate treatment depending on the infection eg viral infections.
This is going to be an evolving issue over the coming months. It is important to bear in mind however that there is currently no shortage of Augmentin and none is anticipated until November 2013 in respect of one tablet strength and January 2014 in respect of the second tablet strength. It is extremely important that all stakeholders work together in the meantime to ensure that there is no panic buying which would accelerate the problem.