Pharmacy Council welcomes lockdown rule to limit drug access, stresses there's 'absolutely not' a shortage of medicine

A decision to limit access to medication while the country is in lockdown is being welcomed by the Pharmacy Council.

On Thursday, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced that pharmacists were required to limit the dispensation of all funded pharmaceuticals to one month's supply, or three months' supply for oral contraceptives.

The new rule came into effect at 11:59pm on Thursday.

"The problem here is we are finding a little bit of stockpiling going on," Michael Pead, chief executive of the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand, told The AM Show on Friday.

"I believe all New Zealanders can act calmly - we just need to take our time in buying our medicines. So the one-month dispensing decision is a good one."

In announcing the new rules, Dr Bloomfield said it was a preemptive move to make sure supplies were maintained.

"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."

Echoing Dr Bloomfield, Pead said there was "absolutely not" a shortage of medicine in the country, adding that "this is a measure to help that."

"We're aware that Pharmac and Medsafe are in close contact with all their suppliers and can distribute quickly," Pead said. "We've also, of course, got those superb pharmacists who are working extremely hard and can get the medicines to those who need them. 

Pead said the Pharmacy Council "don't have a strong sense" of exactly who is stockpiling, but said the new rules would hopefully put an end to the practice.

"We think this measure will really help."

Pharmacy Council welcomes lockdown rule to limit drug access, stresses there's 'absolutely not' a shortage of medicine

The country's lockdown - which began on Thursday and will last for at least four weeks - has meant that all non-essential businesses are now closed and Kiwis must self-isolate.

Visits to pharmacy and supermarkets are among the only expectations to the mandatory self-isolation, with authorities stressing there is no shortage of products in the country.

Despite that, there has been a rush of panic-buying in recent days - especially of items such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and face masks. 

Pead said when it comes to getting medication, it's in everyone's interests to stock up on their needs as they usually would. 

"People will be able to get their prescriptions in a month's time just like normal. We're just asking for normality on this - it's not something new."

On Thursday, Dr Bloomfield said that pharmacists would be able to make exceptions to the new rule on a case-by-case basis if deemed necessary, such as if people live in a remote location or have mobility issues.