Health Department ‘taking steps’ over shortage of antidepressants and antipsychotics

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The Health Department is taking steps to address the shortage of certain antidepressant and antipsychotic medicine, reports The South African.

South Africa is experiencing shortages of certain antidepressants and antipsychotics which is due to a range of supplier problems, including a shortage of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, production problems, and industrial action at local production facilities, the department is quoted in the report as saying. The products mostly affected by these problems were Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Haloperidol, and Olanzapine. The shortages relating to Amitriptyline, Chlorpromazine, Clonazepam, and Risperidone had been addressed in the short-term.

There were eight companies contracted to produce these medicines and they had been unable to supply the quantities that had been ordered. The companies were Dezzo Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Pharmaceuticals, Aspen Pharmacare, Gulf Drug, Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, Cipla, Ranbaxy, and Austell. This shortage affected all provinces and may also affect availability in the private health sector, it said.

The Democratic Alliance‘s (DA’s) Jack Bloom made the media aware of the shortage last week, saying: “I am concerned by a shortage of psychiatric drugs in Gauteng hospitals and clinics that is alarming mental health patients.”

Bloom said: “Mental health patients are being told that these essential drugs are in short supply, and are either given an inadequate supply or told to come back later. I know of several patients who have gone to various hospitals and clinics trying to get anti-depressant medicine. This is a distressing situation that affects very vulnerable people.”

The Health Department said shortages were because of global shortages of the pharmaceutical ingredients, production problems and industrial action at local production facilities.

The department is quoted in The Times as saying: “Unfortunately, other manufacturers do not produce the high volumes used in the state and their quantities will be limited. We are sourcing stock from other countries where this is available to address the current shortage.

“Medicine shortages are a global problem affecting all countries from time to time. The medicine supply chain is very long and complex … a breakdown in any part of this chain will result in medicine shortages in a health facility.”

The South African report The Times report

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