GPs told to not to give repeat prescriptions for HIV medication over fears of coronavirus stockpiling

GPs to give fewer HIV prescriptions due to coronavirus stockpiling fears

Australian GPs have been advised to rein in the number of repeat prescriptions issued for HIV medication to prevent coronavirus stockpiling.

In the early stages of the virus, scientists reported tentative success in treating patients with two HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir.

Unfortunately a clinical trial showed “no benefit… beyond standard care”, but the WHO warned that coronavirus misinformation could still spark panic buying of medications, potentially causing serious consequences for those living with HIV.

Even though there is no prospect of a shortage of HIV medication in Australia, healthcare workers now fear the pandemic could cause a run on critical stocks.

The country has laws governing the distribution of HIV medication, known as regulation 49 prescriptions. This allows individuals to quickly get access to large volumes of the drug by filling all of their repeats at once.

But patients stockpiling in this way could cause localised and temporary shortages and supply chain delays, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine is now warning.

The society told the Guardian that they are now urging GPs not to issue repeat prescriptions, thereby limiting the volumes that can be dispensed at any one point.

“A large amount of regulation 49 (also known as regulation 24) prescriptions continuing to be written may increase the potential for shortages or supply chain disruptions to occur,” read the advice issued on Friday.

“This is particularly relevant if patients are accessing the medications in pharmacies that do not keep large amounts of HIV or viral hepatitis medications in stock, or if they are on older HIV regimens, which may be more susceptible to supply chain delays or shortages.”

The Australian government has told its citizens that there is no risk of a national medicine shortage, but that hasn’t stopped people from stockpiling.

The pandemic has already caused temporary shortages of a range of common medicines and supplies, including asthma medicine, children’s paracetamol, masks and hand sanitiser.