Paracetamol in liquid dosage form has been in short supply for a long time. Now there are also restrictions on ibuprofen water. Pharmacies come up with many ideas to still provide their customers with the medicines they need. A conversation with pharmacist Juliane Stark-Kreul, owner of a pharmacy in Marl.
Ms. Stark-Kreul, it seems that there are problems with the supply of the active ingredient ibuprofen at the moment. Which case forms are particularly affected?
Fluids such as feverfew with ibuprofen are especially effective at this time. But it is already tight with some fever suppositories, especially with low-dose ones, in doses of 75 mg and 125 mg.
Which patients does this affect?
Liquid ibuprofen is primarily intended for children. So they are the first to be affected. There are also people with swallowing difficulties who cannot take ibuprofen in solid dosage form.
What are the causes of distress?
There are many. On the one hand, now there is the wave of flu and cold and of course the wave of Corona. Another reason is the war in Ukraine. Germany sent ibuprofen water to the crisis zone. Finally, there is another fundamental reason: Manufacturers have withdrawn from production in Germany. Many of the active ingredients are produced in China and more are produced in India. If something goes wrong there, such as production contamination or a factory fire, all production stops. And then nothing will come here in Europe. So we are now very dependent on outsourcing.
Is it a national problem? Or are there areas that are particularly affected?
All over Germany there is trouble.
How do you deal with delivery challenges and how can you help as a local pharmacy?
We call companies directly and ask about active ingredients. After all, we had stocked up. But now many of them have been sold. So we then turned to the recommendations of other forms of administration such as suppositories or orodispersible tablets that dissolve in the mouth. We also go through different dealers again and again and see what they have. Today we were lucky and were able to order a larger quantity of hot water.
Do you also switch to other active ingredients?
We do the same. But it is not easy sometimes. In the case of ibuprofen, the medicine is prescribed by the pediatrician in liquid form. Therefore, we should consult the relevant doctor. It definitely takes time for that. And if the client does not come to us by 18.00, we often cannot reach the doctor. It is different when a customer receives a prescription from an emergency physician. I can still reach the ambulance. But in principle, changing the active ingredient is a possibility. We also switched from paracetamol to ibuprofen due to the above discomfort.
You can also make the medicine yourself.
That’s right. At least as long as the basic active ingredient is still there. But this is not easy either. Not only does production take a lot of time, there is also a shortage of skilled workers in pharmacies. Our pharmacy has already been affected by Corona. But in case of emergency, we make our own medicine. When there were no disinfectants, we managed the pharmacies in the same way. We can do it! We look for solutions and we find one. No problem.
When do you expect supply chains to return to operation?
I want to know this myself. We are now in a very dramatic situation that we have never seen before: hot water and suppositories are either not available or only available with great difficulty. If we replace ibuprofen with other active ingredients now, there will most likely be other shortages of these active ingredients in the near future.
Do you have any tips for drugstore customers on what to think about when they’re having trouble?
We try to help in every situation and do what is possible. But as mentioned earlier, searching for alternatives takes time. Therefore, customers should not leave medicines at home for too long and come to us soon. Then we can find a reasonable solution here in the pharmacy.