ۺŮ

ۺŮ leads the charge against chronic shortages of medicines & devices used in women’s healthcare

ۺŮ

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Updated
1 May 2024
SHARE

Medicines and devices commonly used in pregnancy and women’s health are either unavailable in the Australian market or are in critical short supply with potentially serious implications for the day-to-day care of patients.

ۺŮ has convened key stakeholders to workshop solutions for improving medication supply and use, with the objective of bettering health outcomes for women and pregnant people.

Persistent shortages of medicines and devices used in pregnancy and women’s health in Australia is a serious issue. When essential medications are not available, or supplies are severely limited the day-to-day care of patients suffers. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ۺŮ) has today convened a roundtable bringing together key stakeholders including government, industry, healthcare providers, consumers, and NGOs, to workshop short and longer-term pathways to improving medication and devices supply and use in pregnancy and women’s health.

Access to medications and devices in Australia has been a significant problem in the past few years, with shortages exacerbated by rising demand, global supply chain issues, withdrawal of drugs from the Australian market, and regulatory barriers. Consequently, many women and pregnant people have been facing difficulties accessing regular medicines or have found themselves subject to financial and logistical constraints, limited choice, treatment delays, and in some cases, compromised health outcomes. For example, copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) are the only long-acting, non-hormonal contraceptive available in Australia, but supplies are scarce leaving many women forced to accept a non-preferred alternative, or leave contraception to chance.

“Lack of copper IUDs has impacted many women seeking non-hormonal contraception… In the termination-of-pregnancy space, some of these women cannot safely rely on their partners to use barrier contraception and so are then forced to either leave contraception to chance, or use a non-preferred alternative. Consequently, there is potential for women to return for repeat procedures that could have been avoided with the appropriate IUD supply,” explains Women’s Health Doctor and ۺŮ Educational Affiliate, Dr Sarah Cox.

Shortages disproportionately affect those living in regional, rural and remote settings, and First Nations women, as smaller healthcare facilities and community pharmacies lack the infrastructure to ensure a steady supply of medications or complete the onerous requirements for accessing unapproved alternatives through the .

Compounding the problem are the systemic gender-based inequities with medication and device availability via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), as highlighted during the recent Senate enquiries into reproductive health and menopause. Newer medications and contraceptive devices (often with better side effect profiles) which are essential for some women are unavailable via the PBS, accessible only as private prescriptions. No new oral contraceptives have been added to the PBS since 1992 and newer oral options such as combined and progesterone only pills are about three times as expensive as PBS options, which raises significant equity issues. 

Essential medicines not listed on the PBS present patients with a stark choice: pay out of pocket for a medicine that may not be affordable for them, accept a less effective alternative, or go without medication altogether.  This is a prime example of the systemic disadvantages women face when it comes to accessing equitable healthcare.

Dr Anna Clare, Co-Chair of the Roundtable said, “The persistent shortage of key medicines and lack of available devices used daily by clinicians is extremely concerning and in the worst cases, can lead to negative health outcomes for our patients. This is not something which we can tolerate. As doctors dedicated to providing the best possible care to our patients, it’s imperative that we are provided with the tools to do our jobs well.”

Urgent intervention is required to prevent worsening shortages and will necessitate collaboration between government, industry, and healthcare workers. The objective of today’s roundtable – facilitated by ۺŮ – is to bring together those key stakeholders in the first step towards finding viable solutions. Discussions will identify the medicines and devices in the most persistent shortage in Australia and determine sustainable short and long-term strategies to resolve issues.

Associate Professor Amanda Henry, ۺŮ NSW Councillor & Co-Chair of the Roundtable said, “We are determined to address the root causes of pregnancy medicine and device shortages in Australia. Solutions may not be simple, but we are fully committed to working together with consumers, clinicians and all stakeholders to overcome these challenges.”

Solutions will need to navigate the obstacles of the current sponsor-driven regulatory environment to secure a consistent supply of critical medications into Australia. The addition of more essential medicines (and inclusion of devices) to the PBS to reduce financial barriers and expand the choices available to women will be crucial. Only through a concerted effort can we hope to mitigate the adverse impact of medication and device shortages within women’s health and achieve equitable health outcomes across Australia.

For media enquiries
Bec McPhee
Manager, Executive Office & Advocacy
0413 258 166
bmcphee@ranzcog.edu.au

CATEGORIES
Advocacy Women’s health

LATEST NEWS

Advocacy 17 June 2024
New Zealand Women Would Benefit From Pelvic Floor Muscle ۺŮ 
New Zealand’s obstetricians and gynaecologists are increasingly concerned about pelvic…
Advocacy 31 May 2024
Now More Than Ever: National Reconciliation Week 2024
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a crucial time in Australia…
Advocacy 31 May 2024
Insights from the Aotearoa New Zealand Budget 2024
The Aotearoa New Zealand Government has released its 2024-2025 budget.
Advocacy 30 May 2024
ۺŮ Welcomes Opportunities to Improve Birthing Outcomes for Women
The College welcomes the report of the New South Wales…
Aotearoa New Zealand 20 May 2024
Dr John Tait Conferred as New President of AOFOG
Dr John Tait ONZM becomes first Aotearoa New Zealand President…
Aotearoa New Zealand 20 May 2024
Statement on Essure devices in New Zealand
The College calls for support for New Zealand women who…
Advocacy 20 May 2024
ۺŮ Challenges Queensland Abortion Bill Amendment
The College has made a submission opposing the Queensland ‘Termination…