While Australia is facing an unprecedented shortage of antibiotics and struggles to source more than 400 other medicines (some of which are used to treat chronic conditions), local compounding pharmacies are reviving the long-lost tradition of preparing medicines from raw ingredients.
However, the lack of compounding experience in Australia in an industry that heavily relies on importing international expertise, means that it will not be easy to respond in the short term to the nation’s growing medicine availability crisis.
Mike Yang, compounding pharmacist and owner of Synergy Compounding Pharmacy in Sydney’s Crows Nest, said:
“We are a compounding pharmacy, but that is generally for people who cannot tolerate normal commercial products. I’ve been a compounding pharmacist for roughly about seven years and I’ve never once had to compound antibiotics from scratch because they’re readily available from normal chemists everywhere and they’re pretty reasonably priced.”
Yang also warns about the higher cost of compounded antibiotics.
“For us to make antibiotics for common conditions – it’s scary because it costs a lot of money. It really highlights the shortage of essential medications to everyday Australians.”
Maja Aleksandrov, a compounding pharmacist from Blakes Pharmacy in Potts Point, said for Keeping News Local:
“Whereas compounding can be a solution for certain medication shortages, compounding common medications like antibiotics daily is a very scary thought. At the moment, there is also a shortage of raw materials which can be used for compounding them, because medications like amoxicillin have always been commercially available. Potentially bigger compounding suppliers could start importing them from overseas.”
Ahmad Reda from Reda Compounding Chemist in Fairfield agrees with Maja’s findings.
“The raw materials for common antibiotics are available from the compounding suppliers overseas. But importing them takes time and is very costly, especially if they are in high demand around the world. Currently, many doctors have no alternative but to look for compounding pharmacists to make kids’ syrups from tablets or capsules, which was never the case in the past. This again increases the price of these medications”, says Reda.
On 11 January 2023, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) issued a media release, stating that manufacturing problems are creating the shortage.
“There are current shortages of some antibiotics in Australia, including amoxicillin, cefalexin and metronidazole. We are facilitating the supply of alternative medicines as a priority. Most of the shortages are caused by manufacturing issues or an unexpected increase in demand. Many of these medicines have alternatives available”, TGA explained.
The worldwide shortage of raw materials for antibiotics and medicines is expected to last for at least two more months. Therefore, Australia’s compounding pharmacy industry is likely to experience some further and unexpected revival due to the global and local medicine crisis.