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Vital thyroid drug rationed as global shortage bites

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Access to a potentially life-saving thyroid treatment has been severely restricted following a global shortage of the medicine.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has warned doctors and patients that they could face lengthy delays in getting access to the drug Carbimazole, marketed under the name Neo-Mercazole as a treatment for overactive thyroid, following a breakdown in the global production and supply of the medication.

The TGA has restricted access to the drug until an alternative supply of a generic Carbimazole product becomes available from around the middle of the month.

The regulator has advised patients using the drug to make an appointment with their doctor at least two weeks before their supply runs out.

In order to ration existing stocks of the medicine, it has been placed under a special access regime.

Where doctors assess that their patient is seriously ill, or is reasonably likely to die within a matter of months, they can apply for immediate access to the drug under Category A of the Special Access Scheme.

In order to do this, they must complete a Category A form, which is sent to both the TGA and a pharmacist. The pharmacist will send a copy to the supplier (Link Healthcare), who will approve supply.

The TGA has warned that supply of the drug for all other patients (designated as Category B) can take up to 10 working days.

In this instance, a doctor will have to fill out a Category B form, which is then sent to the TGA for consideration, a process that is currently taking up to 10 working days to complete.

If approved, a letter will be sent by the TGA to the doctor, pharmacist and Link Healthcare, and the latter will approve the supply of the medicine to the patient.

The regulator said these processes were a temporary measure that would be lifted once the alternative generic product became available from around mid-November.

Adrian Rollins