Message to Prescribers from PHARMAC

Tēnā koutou katoa,

These are difficult times and we are working and communicating with community organisations and all health professionals, to ensure whānau are able to access the medicines they need and to ensure there is a continuity of supply of medicines.

We have been made aware of increasing instances of stockpiling and panic-buying of medicines. We know that this is putting a major strain on supply chains and on pharmacists. We are hearing from pharmacists that they will run out of stock if we don’t restrict community dispensing.

In order to combat this, PHARMAC is placing temporary restrictions on dispensing for all community medicines to just one month’s supply (or three months for oral contraceptives). This is to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to the medicines they need. This change will come into effect at midnight on Thursday 26 March. The Pharmaceutical Schedule will be updated to reflect this at the same time.

We don’t currently have significant medicine shortages. Paracetamol is the only confirmed medicine affected by COVID-19 supply issues. This is a temporary measure to see us through COVID-19.

There are no changes to the way prescriptions are written, people won’t need to visit their prescriber more frequently.  It’s important to note that this change will not mean that people pay more to collect their medicines.  The usual $5 fee will apply for the first month of the prescription and then the repeats for months two and three will be free.

We do not make this decision lightly, as we know that it may result in people who are in isolation potentially having to visit pharmacies more often. However, despite consistent messaging to prescribers and the general public, stockpiling behaviour has not slowed down, and this is putting at risk the fair and equitable distribution of medicines to New Zealanders.

To support social distancing, pharmacists are still able to make exceptions to dispense up to three-months supply for certain people, specifically those with mobility issues, who live rurally, those who are immunocompromised and the elderly.  People also remain able to have their prescriptions picked up for them by others.

We will continue to work closely with all our suppliers to determine the best approach to manage potential medicine and medical device shortages.

‘He Waka eke noa.’ We are in this together.

Nāku Noa Na

Lisa Williams,
Director of Operations, PHARMAC

Please note you can still write a 3 month prescription, with one month dispensing.

General enquiries:
[email protected]
Phone: 0800 660 050