Medicine Shortages

The current unprecedented medicine shortages are the result of a perfect storm of circumstances coming together at once, with lack of local manufacturing being a major factor.

Local manufacturing on a smaller scale however, may provide the answer to at least some of these shortages. By this, of course, I mean compounded products filling the gaps until big pharma can work their way out of this crisis.

Compounding out of stock medicines has always been a part of what we do, but never more so than now.

Even when commercially made medicinal products are out of stock, it doesn’t mean than the pure powdered form of the drug is not available. This means that a capsule, liquid or other dose form can still be accessed, via your doctor writing a prescription for an equivalent compounded product. Certain drugs may not be able to be compounded, such as very new drugs still under patent or drugs which have very specific handling and manufacturing requirements.

Most compounded products are not covered under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and will cost more than the commercial product. Compare this to buying a T-shirt off the shelf, to having one made just for you. A compounded product also takes time to be made once the prescription is received. Usually only 24 hours or so but possibly longer if the drug must be sourced.

It is important to note that a compounded product, even exactly the same strength, may not be absorbed by the body in exactly the same way. This is because the other ingredients, coating, and manufacturing processes involved in making medicine products all result in a medicine with its own particular way of dissolving and being absorbed by the body.

Drugs that have a special coating, time release absorption, or very tiny doses to be effective are even more challenging to find comparable alternatives.

Your doctor may want to monitor for any changes to the therapeutic effects, as a result of small variations in how the medicine is absorbed. For some drugs this is more important than others, and your doctor and pharmacist can provide more information on specific drugs.

Allergens, colours and any unnecessary additives can also be left out of the compounded product, according to the needs of the individual.
For some people, compounded products can provide more than just the medicine they need when it’s out of stock. For some it is the only source of the medicine they need, exactly how they need it.