Drug shortages in Ireland getting worse

An updated supply agreement last fall between drugmakers and health officials in Ireland was expected to help keep drugs on shelves, but pharmacies in Ireland report shortages have only gotten worse in the last 12 months.

A recent survey found that nearly all pharmacists have reported shortages to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) in the last year, PharmaTimes reports. More than 90% said they are getting worse and 93% believe that trend will continue. The survey found that 44% of pharmacists believed that patients' health was affected by the problem. Pharmacies reported their staffs average 8 hours a month to try to track down drugs they are having difficulty getting. Pharmacists said recently Pfizer's ($PFE) pain drug Lyrica and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) antidepressant Cymbalta were particularly hard to come by. And they complained that too often they are in the dark about when shortages will be resolved.

The problem of drug shortages is a global one, and the FDA has found that in the U.S., at least, it is most often tied to interruptions in manufacturing when quality issues need to be resolved. The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), a trade association for branded drugmakers, acknowledged that can be a problem in Ireland, according to PharmaTimes. But it also pointed to the issue in Europe, where suppliers divert products to other markets where reimbursements are higher, and so profit margins better. They said that is a factor they have no control over.

Last fall, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) tried to help by suggesting it could be the go-to authority to coordinate action in the case of some drug or device shortages in Europe caused by manufacturing problems or disruptions. This year, there have been added concerns that a new law requiring API manufacturers to prove their GMP standards would lead to shortages of some products in the EU.

- read the PharmaTimes story