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Pharmacists facing shortage of up to 300 medicines

The President of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said there is a current shortage of approximately 300 medicines in Ireland.

That includes those that treat common medical conditions like diabetes, blood pressure, Parkinson’s and ADHD.

Tom Murray told the IPU annual conference in Athlone today that this is placing “phenomenal pressure” on pharmacists nationwide and many are facing burnout, while also describing the “unfair” impact it is having on patients.

He said some pharmacists can spend up to 9 hours per week trying to resolve supply issues, leading to frustration among members who are chasing “medicine shortages instead of spending that time caring for patients”.

The IPU has warned that most pharmacists fear it will become an even bigger issue over the coming year.

84% of pharmacists who were surveyed by the IPU say they expect this problem to get worse over the next 12 months.

The union also revealed that every pharmacy in Ireland has been challenged by medicine shortages in the past four months.

Pharmacists have warned that medicine shortages can have a serious impact on patients and their families.

Mr Murray said the situation is particularly acute for children with ADHD where he said there are incidents where children cannot return to school as they can’t get their medicine on time.

He said that patients are suffering from the delays in getting important treatment as pharmacists try to source the medicine they need.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said all of this highlights the need for measures to be taken to tackle this serious shortage including legislation that will be flexible enough to find solutions for patients.

He said currently pharmacists’ “hands are tied to a degree”.

He said they are calling on the Minister for Health to speed up the planned introduction of a serious shortage protocol so that pharmacists can prescribe alternative medicine in certain circumstances.

He said he is hopeful that it will come into action in early autumn.

‘Incredibly stressful’

Caoimhe McAuley, a pharmacist and Vice President of the IPU said there are now more conversations happening with patients about medicine shortages and that includes very common medicines.

She said she is also increasingly spending time on the phone to suppliers trying to source medicine.

Ms McCauley said it is incredibly stressful for patients and especially for those who are looking for medicine that is not available.

“For those patients the first emotion is stress and panic at the thought of not being able to get those medicines and unfortunately the sourcing of those medications can take some time.”

The union is also reiterating its call for the immediate appointment of a Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (CPP).

Tom Murray said a CPP is a crucial position and integral to most developed healthcare systems and would “facilitate the development of a strategic vision for community-based pharmacy care, ultimately enhancing patient services.”

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