Experts warn against unnecessary HIV medication stockpiling

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Experts have warned against Australians excessively stockpiling HIV medications and creating unnecessary and dangerous shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) warns a run on HIV medication in pharmacies could create problems for Australians living with HIV.

As a result, ASHM has urged GPs not to issue “regulation 49” prescriptions to limit amounts dispensed at once, the Guardian reported. These prescriptions allow individuals to obtain large volumes of their medication by filling all of their repeats at once.

But ASHM advise GPs that a large amount of such prescriptions “may increase the potential for shortages or supply chain disruptions to occur.”

“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,” the advice states.

“Or if they are on older HIV regimens, which may be more susceptible to supply chain delays or shortages.”

ASHM President, Associate Professor Mark Bloch, told the Guardian his patients had expressed concerns about potential shortages.

“There is more than adequate supply of HIV medications in Australia,” he said.

“But if patients start trying to stock up it may cause delays in access to certain medications in some areas.”

In recent weeks the federal government has put limits on some common medicines to combat shortages due to unnecessary panic-buying.

Bloch recommended Australians living with HIV should keep one month’s supply of HIV medication at home.

“We need to encourage GPs to reassure patients there are currently no HIV medication shortages, and no need to stockpile,” Bloch said.

“Outside of exceptional circumstances, we also need to encourage GPs to avoid writing regulation 49 prescriptions, which allow patients to have all repeats dispensed at once.”

AFAO advice for LGBTIQ and HIV communities during COVID-19 pandemic

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) also recommend keeping one month’s supply of essential medications at home.

AFAO have put out detailed healthcare advice for LGBTIQ and HIV communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They urge anyone taking PrEP to discuss any changes to their regimen with their doctor to ensure safety, as with any medication.

“Some people have asked if they can stop taking PrEP if they are no longer having sex as part of social distancing measures,” AFAO said.

“Many people will prefer to continue taking their PrEP as before to keep their routine and to ensure they maintain their level of protection.

“Some may choose to change from taking PrEP daily to taking it on-demand.

“If you are considering stopping taking PrEP for any reason, make sure you do this safely.

“This means that if you are a cisgender man who has sex with men, to make sure you take one pill a day for two consecutive days (24 and 48 hours) after a possible HIV risk exposure, so you are essentially finishing with taking PrEP after two sex-free days.

“For any other populations, you need to continue taking PrEP daily for 28 days after your last possible HIV risk exposure.”

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