The problem of medicine shortages has intensified with 228 different drugs now out-of-stock, according to the latest index.
The medicines that are not available include codeine-based products like Solpadeine, eye drops, ointments, creams, and the painkiller ibuprofen.
The range of out-of-stock medicines went up by 16 in just three weeks and 41 since early December.
Of the 228 medicines currently unavailable, 12 are listed on the World Medical Organisation’s (WHO) critical medicines list, including antibiotics amoxicillin and penicillin to treat bacterial infections, as well as a medicine for chronic myeloid leukaemia.
The index is compiled by industry experts, Azure Pharmaceuticals, which analyses data made publicly available by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).
It said the latest analysis indicates there are also shortages of treatments for pain relief, infections, anxiety and sleep disorders, seizures, blood pressure and diabetes.
It pointed out that “in keeping with recent trends, 38pc of the medicines out-of-stock have just a single supplier, leaving pharmacists without alternatives for patients.”
In a recent radio interview, Irish-born executive director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Emer Cooke identified price as one of the contributory factors to medicine shortages.
Prices paid to manufacturers of these older medicines by UK and EU governments are, on average, twice or up to four times more than they get in Ireland.
Sandra Gannon, managing director of Azure Pharmaceuticals said: “There are international factors at play but yet again, we are seeing Ireland out-of-sync with other countries.
“Primary among these is price differential. Ireland is paying up to four times less than neighbouring countries and as a result, the medicine supply is following the money.
“There is an element of misguided hope that the end of flu season and a rise in temperatures will make medicine shortages disappear. But the evidence shows that since the end of 2019, this problem was coming.
“Hope has no place in policy making. It is time to meaningfully engage. Patients and pharmacists deserve no less.
“The EMA has a pan-European remit informed by international insights. For its executive director to therefore identify price as one of the contributory factors to medicine shortages is a highly significant moment in this debate.”
She suggested the system used by Ireland for determining prices for new medicines should be applied to these older out-of-stock medicines. This involved looking at a “basket of prices” paid by 14 other EU countries, and Ireland paying the average.
This, along with other measures, would enable manufacturers to pivot and thus alleviate shortages.
She claimed of all products out-of-stock at this time, “there are none for which there is no suitable clinical alternative” and “no company has cited pricing as a reason for current product shortages.”