The shortage of medicines in Ireland at present is affecting 207 products, up from 187 before Christmas and includes cough syrup and multi-purpose antibiotics.
The situation is set to intensify in 2023, for a range of reasons including the fact that stockpiles of medicines created to lessen the impact of Brexit are now running out.
With the present overcrowding crisis in hospitals, the HSE is calling on the public to avoid Emergency Departments if possible, saying instead contact your GP or pharmacist.
However, many people are finding it difficult to get through to their GPs due to present demand, and while pharmacists are busy dealing with people feeling unwell, they are being hampered by bureaucracy in supplying some medicines due to shortages of some popular products.
Barra Nevin is a member of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) and a pharmacist in Galway. He says people presenting at pharmacies with prescriptions for antibiotics are often unnecessarily delayed, because the antibiotic prescribed by their GP is out of stock. The problem is that a pharmacist is not permitted to substitute a similar generic antibiotic without first conferring with the GP. Contacting GPs takes time and meanwhile the customer must wait until the GP can be contacted.
This is not the situation in Northern Ireland or the UK, where a pharmacist can use a generic brand of a prescribed medicine like an antibiotic, without a GP consultation.
Barra insists a similar protocol is urgently required here.
Midwest News editor Teresa O’Malley spoke to Barra about the demands on pharmacies at present….