Wagga pharmacists say they are struggling to fill some regular prescriptions because of a coronavirus-led medicine shortage.
Pharmacy owner Hani Fanous said chemists had introduced restrictions on the sale of some medicines, including limiting the sale of Ventolin asthma puffers, in a bid to overcome supply-chain issues created by the pandemic.
"It is a significant issue. The government has tried their best and [at the] pharmacy we're trying our best just to give lower doses. The people are understanding of what's happening," he said.
An ongoing senate committee has heard concerns about Australia's "fragile" dependence on overseas medicine manufacturing, after it was convened in April 2020 to investigate the federal government's response to the pandemic.
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One submission to the inquiry, made by independent body Integrated Economic Research - Australia, said the country imported more than 90 per cent of its medicines and was "vulnerable" to supply-chain disruptions.
Dr Fanous said medicine stress in Wagga had improved from its peak late last year but there were still some medications that were very difficult to find.
"The supply has started to pick up again. But our manufacturers are all from overseas. Especially South East Asia which was a COVID-19 hotspot," he said.
Dr Fanous said he was having trouble sourcing generic brands of the antidepressant sertraline, which is often sold as Zoloft and is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in Australia.
He said he was asking customers at his Soul Patterson and Terry White Tolland pharmacies to avoid stockpiling medications and to consider accepting different brands of their required medicine if necessary.
"We still have some shortage but it's not as bad [as it was]. Most of the pharmacies just giving one month [worth of medication] at a time unless there's some reason the customer needs more," he said.
He said he would prefer to see Australia make "everything we use" but doubted whether domestic pharmaceutical companies could compete with cheaper overseas manufacturing.
Southcity Pharmacy owner Luke van der Rijt said sourcing medicines had been a significant issue since March 2020, saying he was also having trouble finding some antidepressants.
"There has been a lot of out-of-stocks of certain medications and brands, but we always try to find a source of some type," he said.
"Most of the time we can get it or source a different brand or refer a patient to another pharmacy. But in some cases we've had to contact the prescriber to find an alternative type of medicine."
Mr van der Rijt said he didn't have an opinion at this stage on whether Australia should manufacture more of its own medicines, but "anything that can ensure a steady supply of medication is a good thing".
My Chemist Estella pharmacist in charge Ramy Gerais said Wagga chemists had been working together to help customers access medication.
Mr Gerais urged the community not to panic, though he recommended patients give themselves "a few extra days" to organise their medications.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt's office was contacted for comment.