Medicine shortages have hit one-third of families over past year

Many of the medicines currently listed as out of stock or in short supply do not have a generic alternative

More than one in three people say either they or their family have been impacted by ongoing shortages of certain medicines over the past year, with 60 per cent of a group surveyed saying the Government needs to improve its management of the crisis.

And four in 10 say the problem is getting worse. More than 330 medicines are currently unavailable according to data from the medicines regulator – the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Irish Pharmacy Union – according to a new study by generics specialist Azure Pharma.

Pharmacies are now regularly having to inform customers that they do not have supplies of the medicines they have been prescribed.

Where generic alternatives are available, pharmacists can dispense those instead but, according to the Azure study, 45 per cent of the 273 medicines listed by the HPRA as currently unavailable and having a medium to high impact on customers do not have a generic equivalent.


This is placing pressure on both pharmacists and GPs who need to take time out to amend patient prescriptions. According to an Ireland Thinks poll with a 1,304-strong representative sample, commissioned by Azure Pharmaceuticals, 33 per cent of patients had to have their prescriptions changed by their GP due to shortages.

Medicines in short supply currently include antibiotics and treatments for high blood pressure, arthritis, allergies, epilepsy, ADHD and cancer.

“This research demonstrates that medicine shortages continue to have a profound impact on Irish patients, pharmacists and GPs,” said Azure Pharma chief executive Sandra Gannon. “Ireland continues to wish this problem away; meanwhile, neighbouring countries are taking proactive measures to mitigate and respond to this challenge.”

Azure Pharmaceuticals is a leading supplier in the Irish market of generics medicines, which, with biosimilars, now account for about 60 per cent of the Irish medicines market.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times