Drug shortages in Australian hospitals cause for concern

THE recent rationing of benzylpenicillin supplies to hospitals should ring the alarm bell on Australia’s vulnerability to the increasing global threat of medication shortages, experts say.

Australia produces less than 5% of the pharmaceuticals it consumes, according to researchers from NSW’s Hunter New England Local Health Network, who recently audited essential medicines in their local hospitals.

Of 378 drugs, a quarter had less than 30 days’ reserve and 3% had less than seven days’ reserve, they found. Among 76 high volume medicines, half had less than 30 days’ supply.

“There is no official mechanism for identifying drug shortages in Australia,” they noted, calling for legislation to compel manufacturers and wholesalers to report any compromise of supply.

MJA 2011, online 28 Sept