Coronavirus: Doctor warns against panic-buying paracetamol

A doctor is telling the country to calm down and stop panic-buying. 

Pharmac is placing temporary dispensing limits on Government-funded paracetamol from Monday, with the outbreak of COVID-19 starting to interrupt supply chains.

"Impacts to the supply of paracetamol is a global issue and we don't know yet when normal supply of this raw material will resume," Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams said on Friday.

Manufacture of the drug in China, where the virus originated, has been interrupted by strict quarantine procedures and travel restrictions. The main factories where it's produced have been closed down.

India has also halted export of medical supplies, including paracetamol, antibiotics and progesterone.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president John Bonning says materials also come from Germany, which has had more than 500 reported cases.

"I've got faith in our system and I don't think we're suddenly going to run out of supplies," he told Newshub. "But we need to be judicious and sensible in the way we use it."

Judicious and sensible aren't words that can be used to describe how some Kiwis reacted to the coronavirus' arrival in New Zealand, with many stripping supermarket shelves of essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitiser, despite medical experts saying there was no need to - soap is better at protecting yourself against the virus than sanitiser, and hogging toilet paper just makes it harder for others to find

Dr Bonning says panic-buying paracetamol is about as helpful as panic-buying toilet paper.

"It is just silly. We need to share around our resources and frankly not be silly about it." 

There is currently enough stock of paracetamol in New Zealand to meet four months of normal demand.

"We need to be rational about this, and there's a lot of irrationality going on out in the community," said Dr Bonning.

National MP Judith Collins on Friday told The AM Show there was no risk of a toilet paper shortage because we make toilet paper here - and as yet there's been no widespread outbreak.

"I'm not into panicking myself... I would remind everybody that New Zealand actually produces toilet paper and there's no reason to get all excited because there's a whole place down in Kawerau that just does that. Like, pushing it all out." 

The temporary restrictions are for paracetamol prescribed by your GP, not ones you can buy at the supermarket or pharmacy.

"It's inevitable that there will be disruption across the supply chain so we're actively monitoring all products," said Williams.

"To make sure that where we need to take steps to ensure that all New Zealanders can access the medicines we need we'll put in place appropriate measures to ensure that will happen."