Plastics issues hit supplies of some medicines

Nasal sprays, asthma inhalers and eye drops in short supply in Irish market

Nasal sprays, inhalers and eye drops are among items hit recently by supply issues, according to an updated assessment of the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (HPRA) medicines shortages list.

Generics producer Azure, which analyses the official shortage list, said medicines stored or delivered using plastic components are now increasingly in short supply. These include nasal sprays, inhalers for the treatment of asthma and 11 types of eye drops.

The number of items on the HPRA list has grown to 247 even as European Medicines Agency chief executive Emer Cooke last week said the worst of the medicines shortages – which saw Ireland and other countries struggle for supplies of common drugs such as antibiotics and cough mixture to treat winter bugs – was over.

The figures are up 19 since the end of last month, and mark a 38 per cent increase since Azure began collating its medicines shortages index in October.


Other medicines still in short supply in the past week include those that treat epilepsy, and medicines used for the treatment of high blood pressure, Azure said. It said many antibiotics like Amoxicillin and Penicillin and commonly used over-the-counter medicines like Benylin and Dioralyte are still difficult for patients to source.

Irish health authorities have consistently said that while certain dosages and pack sizes may not be available, alternatives can be sourced by pharmacists.

Azure, which specialises in the sort of long-established, widely used but off patent medicines that have been in short supply this winter, says Irish health authorities will need to address price if they want to find a longer-term solution to supply issues.

It says that Portugal, the UK, Germany and Switzerland have all taken price related policy measures in response to this winter’s problems, “including price increases for lower priced medicines”.

Sandra Gannon, Azure chief executive also said Sweden, Denmark and Malta, which all use tenders to set reimbursement prices, had experienced price increases due to lack of supply of core medicines.

Ms Cooke acknowledged last week that “price may be a factor” in leading to product shortages, as suppliers move medicines toward higher-paying markets.

Ms Gaoon said medicine shortages in Ireland “will continue to grow incrementally unless political will is shown to take measures, like those carried out by other EU nations, to meaningfully tackle the issue”.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times