A Queensland mum has pleaded with the public to stop panic-buying medication, after she was unable to buy her son life-saving drugs that prevent his “lungs shutting off”.
- Pharmacy staff told a mother they had been abused attempting to stop a man without asthma purchasing puffers and planning to store them
- New regulations combat bulk-buying behaviour, limiting the purchase of prescription medications and critical over-the-counter drugs to a month’s supply
- The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia says warehouses have reassured them there is enough of these medicines
Sunshine Coast woman Natalie Benson said she tried to source Ventolin from four chemists for her three-year-old asthmatic son Oliver, after he fell sick earlier this week, but coronavirus panic buyers had left pharmacy shelves empty.
On Thursday, the Federal Government enforced new regulations to combat bulk-buying behaviour, limiting the purchase of prescription medications and critical over-the-counter drugs to a month’s supply.
Ms Benson said it was disappointing the Government had to step in, and that people were choosing to put others’ lives at risk.
“My son is sick at the moment, and as soon as the asthma comes into that he cannot breathe. It can be very dangerous for him, his lungs can shut off,” Ms Benson said.
“If he doesn’t have that Ventolin on hand, then it’s a trip to the hospital where he can get it.
“He’s up having to spend a night or two there trying to get his oxygen levels back up.”
Staff copping abuse
According to Ms Benson, staff at a local pharmacy said they had been abused after attempting to stop a man from purchasing four puffers upon learning he didn’t have asthma and planned to store them.
“It’s so disappointing people are doing that, I can usually go to any chemist and there’s always a supply,” she said.
“If you don’t have asthma or need it then don’t go stockpiling it, as people like my son really need it.
“It doesn’t actually help people who don’t have asthma, so it’s a waste and then the people who need it end up in hospital taking up an oxygen mask instead.”
Customers buying ‘many months’ worth of medicine
According to Australia’s peak pharmacy body, pharmacists across the country were reporting panic buying along with “physical and verbal abuse” toward staff who try to intervene.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Chris Freeman said the behaviour was “worrying” and widespread.
“We had many pharmacists contact us describing people coming in and purchasing many months’ worth supply of life-saving medicines like Ventolin,” Mr Freeman said.
“People have then been physically or verbally abusing pharmacists trying to get these medicines.
“Then we’ve had pharmacies unable to stock them, which is critical for people to access.
“Medicines aren’t things like toilet paper, people can actually die without them.”
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‘We have supply’
Mr Freeman said he hoped the new restrictions on purchases would help mitigate the problem.
“Warehouses have reassured us multiple times that there is enough of these medicines out there, we have supply. It’s just about getting them into the pharmacies quick enough,” he said.
“Wholesalers have had increases in the range of 50 to 60 per cent above their normal ordering amount, and they’re delivering more but it’s difficult with such high demand coming in.
“With these new measures to curb bulk buying we’re hoping to get stock into pharmacies quicker, so people who genuinely need these medicines can access them at any point in time.
“But to do that we need people to reduce the amount they’ve been buying over the past two to four weeks.”
Panic buyers could cause drug outages
Pharmacy Guild of Queensland president Trent Twomes said panic buyers choosing to over-purchase for fear of stock running out would be the only reason an outage ever occurred.
“As we’ve said, all critical medications are in stock, we’re just experiencing delays in the supply chain due to a spike in demand,” he said.
“So we have drug shortages, that is a fact, but those shortages are solely being caused by panic buying.
“We don’t want shortages to turn into outages.
“What we need is for Australians to realise we have the strongest Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in the world and by going out and panicking, like they’ve done with toilet paper and other issues, it is actually going to be the thing that will cause problems down the track, not a lack of supply in Australia.”
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