Clinics run out of drugs

13 August 2014 - 02:10 By Claire Keeton
File photo
File photo

Private hospitals have over the past six months been hit by stockouts of anaesthetic drugs. But both Mediclinic and Netcare said the shortages have been "mostly resolved" and "most drugs" are available again.

A list from one hospital shows 14 drugs, including commonly used products such as morphine ampoules, were out of stock there.

Safe equivalent therapies are available, but the shortages restrict options for patients.

Douglas Defty, an executive for Mediclinic SA Pharmacy, said the shortages affected the entire private and public healthcare market in South Africa and Namibia.

"Most of our hospitals in Southern Africa were affected," he said."[But] the problem has mostly been resolved."

Netcare managing director Jacques du Plessis also confirmed the stockouts.

The drugs out of stock from the end of July include Robinul 2ml amps, neostigmine 2.5mg amps, Nimbex 2.5 and 5ml amps, Perfegan 5000mg vials and Serenace 5mg amps.

Reports of major drug stockouts in the public sector were common last year. But the frequency and list of anaesthetic drug stockouts in the private sector had escalated in the past year, said an anaesthetist, who preferred not to be named.

"These are not unusual drugs but everyday drugs," one said. His colleague added: "Every week it's a different drug. I used up the last ampule of Ultiva 2mg and Marcaine with Adrenaline this morning."

Marcaine is used for local or regional anaesthesia (loss of sensation) or analgesia (decreased pain) for surgical, dental, diagnostic and obstetrical procedures.

S A Society of Anaesthesiologists national secretary Professor Pierre Fourie said: "Individual drugs may be unavailable in South Africa, both in private and government hospitals, for various time periods.

"This is not particular to a specific company, drug or institution, though institutional logistics may play a role," said Fourie.

He said there were global supply problems, which might also affect the local supply chain.

Manufacturers attribute some of the disruptions to "[active pharmaceutical ingredient] shortages," said Defty.

He said Mediclinic was focusing on direct contact with the manufacturers and specific products.

Fourie said the society was "considering procedures to proactively gather information on drug supply and potential shortages".