Launch of Medicine Shortages Information Initiative

Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash launched the Medicine Shortages Information Initiative at Parliament House, Canberra on 26 May 2014.

Page last updated: 26 May 2014

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26 May 2014


  • Parliamentary colleagues: Stephen Jones MP, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, John Alexander MP and Senator Claire Moore, Co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Medicines
  • Professor John Skerritt, National Manager , TGA
  • Dr Brendan Shaw, CEO, Medicines Australia, and Ms Kate Lynch, CEO, Generic Medicines Industry Association
  • Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for attending the launch of the Medicines Shortage Information Initiative; a new programme to keep Australians informed about prescription medicine shortages.

Many people here this evening will be aware that the Medicine Shortages Information Initiative consists of three main components.

The first is a Protocol, agreed between the Australian Medicines industry and TGA, which describes their respective roles in the communication and management of medicine shortages.

The second is a new website that provides vital, up to date information to doctors, pharmacists and consumers about prescription medicine shortages.

Finally, an alert service will immediately provide subscribers with new and updated information on medicine shortages direct to their computer or mobile device.

This Initiative will greatly assist in providing health professionals with information to support continuity of care for patients.

For the first time, consumers will also have ready access to information about the availability of their treatments.

There are benefits for all. Doctors, pharmacists and patients will all benefit from easier access to vital information.

Pharmaceutical companies will also benefit from reduced red tape as they will now be able to report medicine shortages using an easy online form.

This Initiative is being led by Medicines Australia, the Generic Medicines Industry Association and the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The Initiative is supported by an extraordinary range and number of healthcare organisations; many of whom are represented here this evening.

It is a great example of a sector working with Government for the benefit of consumers.

The Australian Government strongly supports positive partnerships between private and public health providers and stakeholders.

We believe that cross-sector collaboration is key to greater efficiency in health care, as well as better health care experiences and outcomes for consumers.

The Australian National Medicines Policy objectives include providing timely access to medicines that Australians need, at a cost individuals and the community can afford, as well as maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry.

Ultimately it is the companies who maintain the continuity of medicine supply, through a range of activities.

In the majority of cases, this happens seamlessly with no impact on timely access for consumers.

However there are some exceptions; which is why we need this website.

Medicine shortages can occur for a variety of reasons, from the mundane to the extraordinary.

Sometimes there is a disruption to the manufacturing process, either here or overseas, or the raw materials for the medicine may have become hard to get.

And sometimes there is an unexpected spike in demand: there might be a change in clinical practice, so that health professionals start to prescribe a medicine more often than in the past.

Or there may be a major health event – such as an extensive disease outbreak or a natural disaster affecting many people.

Fortunately that kind of event is relatively rare but it’s a possibility that governments have to prepare for.

In the past, shortages have arisen in medicines for cancer, anaesthetics used in surgery, medicines used in emergencies and electrolytes provided to patients on intravenous drip.

Whether the shortage affects thousands, hundreds or a small number of people, it can be difficult for the individuals involved.

For patients who regularly take a medicine, and then cannot get that medicine, change can have significant implications even if there is an alternative.

Up-to-date and consistent communication about medicine shortages is crucial to allow continuity of care.

Armed with this information health professionals and consumers are able to make informed decisions about medicines that may be in short supply.

The new protocol will guide implementation of this initiative.

The Medicine Shortages Information website, which is hosted by the TGA, will allow health professionals and consumers to quickly and easily check on the availability of a particular medicine.

The website can be searched in multiple ways, so users can find what they need, such as the status and duration of medicine shortages.

The new subscription service allows users to elect to receive email or RSS feed notification when any new or updated information is added to the medicine shortages website.

In this way, subscribers will know immediately when medicines become available again.

It is thanks to the cooperation shown between Medicines Australia, the Generic Medicines Industry Association, the TGA and many others in the healthcare sector that we now have a system and a protocol to better manage and communicate medicine shortages.

These initiatives represent a step forward for health professionals and consumers.

Once again, I congratulate all those involved in this initiative; in particular, Medicines Australia, GMiA and the TGA.

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