Life support

Respiratory assisted medical supplies

PETALING JAYA: A spike in the number of Covid-19 and flu cases, as well as outbreaks of hand-foot-mouth disease (HFMD), has exacerbated the drug shortage problem in the country.

Checks carried out by The Star at pharmacies in the Klang Valley revealed that over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol, cough syrup and sore throat lozenges are out of stock. Some clinics are also short of resources.

A player in the sector fears that the shortage could lead to a health crisis.

“Most pharmacies and clinics are out of stock of medicines such as Clarinase for flu and stuffy nose, and Betadine for sore throat.

“We also recently received a memo from our supplier stating that flu vaccines will not be available until 2024,” a doctor who wished to remain anonymous told The Star.

Children’s cough syrup and Panadol syrup for children are also out of stock, forcing some parents to dissolve paracetamol tablets and give them to their children, a pharmacist added.

Other pharmacists said the supply of Panadol Soluble and Prospan cough syrup had been cut off since last year.

“The supply of Panadol Extend has also been interrupted for some time and we only received stock last week,” said a pharmacist.

He added that the supply of all types of Panadol was so low that stocks would normally run out in just two days.

The chairman of the Federation of Private Doctors Associations of Malaysia, Dr Steven Chow, said the situation was still worsening and was unlikely to be resolved soon.

“Many clinics are now running out of basic cough and cold syrups due to numerous epidemics, such as HFMD, influenza and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“This includes several prescription medications such as antibiotics, prednisolone, antivirals, over-the-counter medications for fever, flu, cough and cold, and pediatric medications like syrups – these are currently sold out. stock in GP clinics.” In the meantime, if we face an unexpected epidemic, it will trigger a crisis,” he added.

All mouth ulcer sprays are also short due to the current spike in HFMD cases, he said.

Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang said the situation had not changed much since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides the number of cases, other factors such as the war between Ukraine and Russia have affected the supply of medicines.

“The fluctuation in Covid-19 cases will affect the supply of medicines as it involves global trade.

“Even if we want to manufacture our own medicines, we still have to import the ingredients or the packaging materials, so no one can solve this problem – we have to accept (that there is a shortage of medicines).

“All of this is happening – we have food safety and now we have medicine safety (problems).

“But it’s something everyone is aware of and the Department of Health is taking action because we anticipated it two years ago,” he added.

Stressing that the issue is a global problem, Amrahi said the public should also play their part in minimizing the impact of the drug shortage.

“I can’t predict what will happen in the future, but I don’t think it will be settled by the end of this year, and that’s why the public should be careful in its use, avoid waste and ensure that he takes the medicine according to the prescribed dose.

“Avoid hoarding medication and use alternative treatments such as honey and lemon (for sore throat).

“For me, it’s better to improve our health literacy while taking care of our health – go for preventative care,” he said.

In GEORGE TOWN, a check showed that some drugs, including Panadol Optizorb, Coflix lozenges and children’s cough syrups in most pharmacies in town, were sold out, with no sign of new stock arriving soon. .

President of the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Association of Penang, Gina Koay, said the situation could only improve next year, as the recent increase in Covid-19 cases was not expected, and it was aggravated by the shortage of raw materials and the logistical problems due to the war in Ukraine.

“Big pharmaceutical companies such as those in Europe will usually have a fixed amount – for example, RM100 million cartons of a particular brand of medicine – for Malaysia, but they have not planned for an increase in cases of Covid-19,” she said.

Penang Medical Practitioners Society president Datuk KK Tan said 60% of its 700 members were in the same situation, adding the shortage was “very real”.

“I wouldn’t say it’s acute, because private clinics have been asked to offer alternative brands to patients and educate them on their effectiveness versus the ones they’re asking for.

“The increase in other diseases such as HFMD and supply chain issues during this period have also contributed to the shortage of some medicines and we hope the situation will improve by October,” said he added.

The chairman of the Malaysian Association of Private Hospitals, Datuk, Dr Kuljit Singh, said that despite the shortages, many alternatives can be used.

“The drug shortage is temporary and for flu drugs there are many alternatives.

“If we are particular to a specific brand, this can be a challenge. However, for chronic and critical conditions, we see no shortage.

“We were given assurances that by the end of the year the supply would stabilize – unless we got into another problem with the pandemic,” he said.

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