Get the latest news

Medication Availability

December 04, 2019

I rise today to discuss a matter of great importance to many Australians, having recently been contacted by an understandably distressed Macarthur resident about the lack of availability of EpiPen Jr. The lack of EpiPen Jr, a life-saving medication, is greatly distressing to parents who have a child with severe anaphylaxis—including my own son who has a daughter with nut anaphylaxis.

As members of this House ought to be aware, the EpiPen and EpiPen Jr are single-use devices that can be life-saving. Indeed, over the years, I've treated many patients from the Macarthur region who've relied upon the EpiPen in times of mortal danger. I cannot make this more plain to the House: the EpiPen is a life-saving device, and lack of availability of EpiPen Jr for children is greatly distressing to many parents.

On further investigation, I've also noted there are many other medications that are in very short supply in Australia, including Amisulpride, which is an antipsychotic medication; metoprolol, a beta-blocker used for cardiac disease and other problems including migraine; some of the newer statin medications; Isoptin, used to control cardiac arrhythmias; syntocinon, which is used in obstetrics; Lamictal 200mg and 100mg capsules, used to control epilepsy; some antibiotics, including clarithromycin; ranitidine, an anti-acid medication; and some of the vital antiviral medications such as valaciclovir and famciclovir, used to control severe viral encephalitis. There are some medications of which the supply has been described as 'critically important' and which are in critically short supply, including: adrenaline ampoules; metronidazole, an antibiotic used to control gram-negative organisms, sometimes in the worst kinds of sepsis; flucloxacillin, an anti-staphylococcal antibiotic; and meropenem, one of the new antibiotics used for multi-drug-resistant systemic infections. These medications are all in short supply, described as 'critical'. These are life-saving medications.

The Minister for Health is very prone to wanting to politicise the PBS, but we have such severe supply chain difficulties in Australia that we have critically short supplies of many of these life-saving medications, and the minister has done nothing about it. I myself have inquired of the Department of Health about these critically short supplies, and have been previously reassured that all is fine—but, in fact, it's not. We have critically short supplies of vital medications. The health minister is doing nothing.