COVID-19: Pharmac warns pandemic could disrupt supply of paracetamol, other medicines

Pharmac warns the COVID-19 pandemic could disrupt not only the supply of paracetamol, but other medications too.

Over one million paracetamol tablets are prescribed in New Zealand every day. Pharmac has secured a small supply for the short-term, but due to the rapid global spread of COVID-19, it and other medications are facing manufacturing and supply problems.

Paracetamol is still generally available, but it's the funded brand that's a problem, Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams says.

"Many of those countries' people are unable to work, so there's less capacity in the manufacturing plants, and also there's quarantines at the borders and so [it's] harder to get products out of countries and into New Zealand," she says.

Medication costs have also increased due to the pandemic, Health Minister Chris Hipkins says.

"To prepare for a potential COVID-19-related increase in treatment of patients in ICU, Pharmac secured additional stock of a number of medicines. These medicines have more than doubled in price since COVID-19 began," he says.

As well as an extra $150 million over two years for Pharmac, Hipkins also announced extra money for PPE and oxygen equipment on Tuesday.

One pharmacy in Auckland's Mt Eden Village is running low on paracetamol.

"Quite important, normally the first line of pain relief and a lot of people with osteoarthritis would rely on it," Nick Lu from Mt Eden Village Pharmacy says.