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22-10-2014 | Pharmacists highlight shortages in medicines including anti-epileptic drugs

22 October 2014
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The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) have issued a statement highlighting shortages in a number of medications in Ireland including AEDs Epilim (Sodium Valproate) and Lyrica (Pregabalin).

The IPU issued the warnings following a survey of 150 pharmacists last month. The survey found that 99% of pharmacists have noticed medicine shortages in the last 12 months and that over half (52%) believe that the health of patients "has been adversely affected by medicine shortages."

Kathy Maher, President of the IPU, said, "Patients are being put at risk and are anxious that they won't be able to get their medication. Our survey shows that pharmacists are spending anything from five to 10 hours a month resolving medicine shortages instead of directing their efforts and professional expertise towards the needs of patients."

She continued, "Lower medicine prices are leading to the export of certain medicines out of Ireland to countries where medicine prices are higher... We are a very small market in a global context and, if it is not advantageous for suppliers to sell into the Irish market, they will go elsewhere with the result that Irish patients experience a shortage of medicines".

Today, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, representing drug companies, said a key element of the supply agreement with the State is that the supply of medicines is protected, but that disruptions in supply can emerge from time to time with individual products. Possible reasons cited by the IPHA include changes in manufacturing processes, but also cross-border trading.

Sanofi, the manufacturers of Epilim have issued a statement reassuring patients and healthcare professionals that Epilim Chrono Prolonged Release Tablets (200mg, 300mg, 500mg) are currently available on the Irish Market, that they have not been discontinued and they are not in short supply.

The manufacturers add that "Sanofi continues to prioritise the needs of patients in Ireland and has taken steps to ensure that the supply of this product is managed appropriately to meet and fulfil demand expectations".

Responding to the IPU's comments, the Department of Health said it is the government's policy to achieve the best value in medicines while at the same time ensuring access and continuity of supply. With all medicines shortages the priority is to restore supply as quickly as possible. The department said it continuously works with the Health Products Regulatory Authority, the HSE and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to identify ways to avoid and manage shortages.

Epilepsy Ireland has been informed of a number of cases in recent days where people have had difficultiy obtaining Epilim although all issues were resolved by the pharmacist within a short period of time and no patient who contacted us went without their medication.

It is vitally important for seizure-control that AEDs are taken in strict accordance with the prescription and that no doses are missed. It is also critical for people with epilepsy to understand the important issues around generic substitution of epilepsy medications and to ensure that they are not dispensed a different version of their drug to that which they typically receive.

Please contact your Consultant, Epilepsy Specialist Nurse or local Epilepsy Ireland office if you would like further information.

Sources:

TheJournal.ie
Irish Independent

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