17 Jul 2020

Shortage of popular pain relief medication due to Covid-19 demand

8:58 pm on 17 July 2020

Paracetamol 500mg tablets are in short supply in pharmacies and may run out by the end of the month because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pharmac says.

Close up of unhealthy middle aged woman suffers from pain, holding pill and glass of still water feels ill taking medicine, cropped image.

Photo: 123RF

Healthcare professionals throughout the country have been alerted today and also told that Pharmac is trying to get more supplies.

Manufacturing the drug and transporting supplies to markets are both being affected.

"The supplier is continuing to have stock issues due to decreased capacity at international manufacturing plants and difficulty obtaining flights out of India to transport stock," Pharmac's chief executive, Sarah Fitt, said.

Expected shipments have not arrived in the country and stocks are running low at pharmacies with the possibility of supplies being exhausted by the end of July, Fitt said.

Some patients may find their pharmacy is unable to fill their prescription.

"We are working with the supplier to do everything possible to source more paracetamol tablets but understand that this may cause difficulties for some people."

Paracetamol is a funded medicine in New Zealand with over 365 million funded tablets dispensed each year. Limits were placed on it in March when it became apparent there could be a supply issue, Fitt said.

This is the only funded brand of paracetamol tablets for supply on prescription in the community. This means it is the responsibility of the supplier to find alternatives, or to pay for the additional cost of another brand that Pharmac sources.

The supply issue only relates to paracetamol 500mg tablets prescribed by a health professional. Pharmac is not responsible for stock levels in the retail sector, including in supermarkets.

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