60% of people in Ireland impacted by medicine shortages in the past year, new research examining the crisis finds

  • by

Medicine Shortages Index hits new record high of 289, up 50% in just six months

60% of Ireland’s population has been impacted by medicine shortages in the last year, with almost half of the country’s population deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation, new research has found.

It comes as the number of medicines out-of-stock in Ireland has reached a new record high of 289 as the scale of the shortages of vital medicines continues to worsen for Irish patients.

The latest Medicines Shortages Index shows that in the past four weeks alone, the number of medicines unavailable across the State jumped by almost 50, the largest single monthly increase recorded. Medicine shortages have increased by 50% in just six months and 65% in 12 months.

Among the medicines out-of-stock include low dose packs of Aspirin 75mg, which is dispensed around 4 million times per year in Ireland.

Others out of stock include medicines to treat blood pressure, high cholesterol, common antibiotics, medicines for depression, anxiety and insomnia together with a number of eye drops and topical creams.

Separately, a survey of 1,200 people on their experiences of medicine shortages, conducted by Amárach Research and commissioned by Azure Pharmaceuticals, reveals for the first time the impact medicine shortages are having on the public.

It found that three out of five patients have experienced medicine shortages, with over half being told on more than one occasion by a pharmacist in the last 12 months that the medicine they were seeking was not in stock.

56% of Irish adults said they were aware of the medicine shortages crisis that Ireland has faced over the past year, with 48% of the population reporting a high level of concern about the scarcity of various medicines.

Out of the patients who encountered medicine supply issues at a pharmacy, 44% had difficulties obtaining prescription medicine, 24% faced issues with over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, and 31% encountered shortages for both types of medications.

The cohort most worried by the lack of availability of medicines are females in the age category of 35-44, according to the research findings.

The severity of the medicine shortages crisis and impact on people, pharmacists and doctors should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers involved in the healthcare system, said Sandra Gannon, CEO of Azure Pharmaceuticals:

“These findings, coupled with a new record high in the number of shortages, reflects the worsening nature of this issue since it first emerged at the start of 2020.

“Policymakers have yet to fully grasp its cause and effect. Month-by-month, we have seen the numbers grow. 60% of the public have been impacted and after a notably bad period of weeks, a new record high has been reached. Yet despite the trend over a prolonged period, the policy response continues to be defensive or non-existent.”

Sandra Gannon

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Ms Gannon said:  

“The high percentage of individuals reporting difficulties in obtaining both prescription and over-the-counter medicines is deeply troubling. It underscores the reach of this issue across communities as many of the medicines out-of-stock are commonly used.

“Almost half of the population is concerned about the deteriorating state of the availability of medicines. This level of concern reflects the tangible impact on individuals’ access to necessary medications and their overall well-being.”

On the policy response, Ms Gannon said: 

“It appears we are yet to truly understand the nature of this problem and thus are failing to grip it. Diminishing margins for generic medicines, our over reliance on single-sourced medicines, combined with other countries paying higher prices, makes us particularly vulnerable. The medicines market has changed and delays in adapting to this reality are impacting every touchpoint of the health system – patients, pharmacists, doctors and hospitals,” said Gannon.

Sandra Gannon

Gannon pointed to policy measures taken by several other European nations to address the ongoing medicine shortages crisis across the continent, including improved data reporting, encouraging the entry of new suppliers, price increases and de-risking dependency on particular markets.