Coronavirus: Stockpiling Kiwis cause pharmacies to limit drug access during lockdown

Pharmacies across New Zealand will limit access to medications from today because Kiwis have been stockpiling pharmaceuticals in anticipation of the coronavirus lockdown.

The move from Pharmac comes as it tries to ensure Kiwis get the pharmaceuticals they need over the four-week lockdown period that started on Wednesday at 11:59pm.

Speaking to media on Thursday afternoon, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said bulk-buying of medications in response to COVID-19 could cause an unnecessary shortage.

"We have seen some stockpiling from people, unfortunately," he said.

"There is no problem with the supply chain at the moment, but we do not want to get into a position where some people are unable to get the pharmaceuticals that they need, because others have them stockpiled at home."

From 11:59pm on Thursday, pharmacists will be required to limit dispensing of all funded pharmaceuticals to one month's supply, or three months' supply for oral contraceptives.

Dr Bloomfield says pharmacists are free to "use their discretion" in deciding whether to start implementing limited access before this deadline.

He also clarified that no changes will be made to the way prescriptions are written, and people would not have to visit their prescriber more frequently.

"It is simply a change to the amount that is dispensed at each visit to the pharmacy," Dr Bloomfield said.

"This is to manage medicine stocks and ensure our supply chains are robust. There is no significant shortage in any area at the moment."

Pharmacists will be able to make exceptions to the new rule on a case-by-case basis, for instance, if people live remotely or they have mobility issues.

Many pharmacies are in the process of organising home deliveries of pharmaceuticals, Dr Bloomfield said.