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Antidepressant shortage

Stocks of antidepressant medication Fluoxetine are running low. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Supplies of the SSRI medication Fluoxetine, used by sufferers of depression and anxiety, as well as other illnesses, are dwindling across the region after supply-chain problems.

Data from 2018 showed that more than 4000 people across Wairarapa regularly received subsidised SSRI prescriptions, such as Fluoxetine.

The medication is taken daily and takes considerable time and medical supervision to phase out, should a person wish to stop taking it.

“It’s not a medication that you can go without,” said Michael Stewart, pharmacist at Carterton Pharmacy.

“There’s been an ongoing shortage. All these issues are normally national – there are only two main suppliers for the whole country, so if we can’t get them, chances are others can’t,” Stewart said.

“It’s a matter of time: if people were going to run out and we couldn’t get stock, then they’d have to talk to their doctor about reassessing what medications they should be on.

“But we have managed to source some for now.

“We were meant to be changing back to another brand, but that’s been postponed.

“There’s been some shipping issues and that’s why we’ve run out of stock of the current one … We were told we would be using the new one by now, but obviously the stocks haven’t made it here yet.”

The confusion started when Pharmac decided to switch brands of the drug, a change poised to take effect at the beginning of April – people are still being given the supplies of the older brand.

Pharmac is the New Zealand Crown entity that decides, on behalf of district health boards, which medicines and pharmaceutical products are subsidised for use in the community and public hospitals.

In a statement to Radio New Zealand in February, regarding the imposed one-month-supply limits on Fluoxetine, Pharmac’s operations director Lisa Williams said, “We don’t like doing this but the reason we do is we want to make sure there is no patient in New Zealand who would miss out on treatment.”

RNZ went on to state that, according to Williams, the problem was expected to be fixed by mid-March.

It’s now April 15 and the same problems of Fluoxetine shortages are affecting users of the medication again, likely due to the challenges covid-19 are applying to the supply-chain.

This is understandably prompting some concern among the affected parties.

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