OIA Response: Drug shortages

Request dated 29 January 2019 for information relating to medicine stock shortages.

26 February 2019

[Name and contact details redacted]

Kia ora [Name redacted]

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

Thank you for your request dated 29 January 2019 under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) for information relating to medicine stock shortages.  You asked for the following information:

-          A list of drugs which are currently classified as in shortage in New Zealand

-          The date at which a shortage was declared for each drug

-          The condition or illnesses for which each drug is prescribed (not necessary in the case of generic drugs, such as paracetamol)

-          Any additional comment or information on the current list of shortages, if you believe it is appropriate

You also requested that we provide current information at the time of release.

PHARMAC does not have a classification for, nor declares, shortages, other than for products where there is no alternative treatment option available in New Zealand. If and when this occurs, we communicate with prescribers and pharmacies as quickly as possible.

Attached to this response is a list of current stock shortages [XLSX, 11 KB] where alternative treatment options are not available. This list includes the mitigations we have put in place and relevant dates, and the reason for the stock shortage.

We have not provided the conditions each product is chiefly prescribed for – this information is publicly available. You can search each medicine on our online Pharmaceutical Schedule. Each medicine is included in a specific therapeutic group that will give an indication on what it is most likely to be prescribed for. You can also find more information about approved indications (ie conditions) for each medicine in the relevant data sheet(external link) on the Medsafe website.

Please note that ‘stat dispensing’ refers to the limit of medicines a person can pick up with a prescription. In New Zealand, this is three months’ supply for most medicines. Removing stat dispensing means patients can still get the medicine they need, but they can only pick up one month’s supply at a time. People do not pay any additional co-payment if stat dispensing is removed.

General information about supply issues

At any one time, PHARMAC will be working with pharmaceutical companies on a number of potential supply issues. You won’t hear about most of these, as we are able to manage these before they impact pharmacies and patients. There is more information on our website, here.

Product availability issues can happen from time-to-time for a range of reasons, often out of PHARMAC’s or the supplier’s control. Changes in international demand for medicines, manufacturing shortages, natural disasters or changes in regulatory rules in other countries can all have flow on effects on supply in New Zealand. The good news is that PHARMAC manages the impacts of these, aiming to ensure consistent access to funded medicines across New Zealand.

We have several safeguards in our contracts with medicine suppliers. The contracts generally require that suppliers hold a minimum of two months stock in New Zealand and tell us as soon they are aware of a potential supply issue, and provide an alternative brand if needed.  PHARMAC can also take actions such as changing dispensing frequency, so that all patients can continue to get the medicines they need.

Supply contracts like ours aren’t that common internationally. By signing an agreement with PHARMAC, a supplier accepts responsibility to maintain ongoing supply. These contracts mean New Zealand experiences significantly less stock outages compared to other countries. By way of comparison, the TGA lists known stock outages in Australia(external link) and the FDA website lists known stock outages in the USA.(external link)

We trust that the provision of this information answers your queries, if you have any further questions please feel free to contact us again.

Yours sincerely

[Alison Hill's signature]

Alison Hill
Director, Engagement and Implementation