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Pharmacists appeal to government to intervene amid shortages of Ritalin, other drugs

Drugstores unable to honor prescriptions for certain Ritalin dosages, some anxiety medications, and some heart medications, say they are raising a ‘red flag’

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Illustrative image: A pharmacist dispensing medicine (MJ_Prototype via iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image: A pharmacist dispensing medicine (MJ_Prototype via iStock by Getty Images)

The Pharmaceutical Association of Israel has appealed to the government for help, warning that there are shortages of hundreds of vital drugs, the association said Tuesday.

The association sent a letter to Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Monday warning  that the shortfalls were harming patients and calling for his help in improving supplies.

The organization’s CEO Amir Nitzan told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that while Israelis were accustomed to temporary unavailability of some drugs, the problem has sharply increased recently.

Some 100 drug lines are currently unavailable, double the number two months ago, he said. These include certain dosages of Ritalin, some anxiety medications, and some heart medications. There are shortages of some painkillers.

Most patients manage to find workarounds, such as asking their doctor for an alternative prescription, but this is difficult fot them and a burden for the health system, Nitzan said.

“Every day there are more drugs that aren’t in the market,” Nitzan said. “Normally, it happens from time to time, but over the last two months there has been a big increase. At the same time, distributors within Israel are facing operational problems that mean that the drugs that are available are delayed in reaching pharmacies.

“Together, the two problems have an effect. We needed to raise a red flag as we are responsible for patients.”

Illustrative image: an Israeli pharmacy (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Some doctors are concerned that the shortages will widen health inequality, as more educated people who are adept at navigating the health system find it easier than others to get replacement prescriptions. They also say that for drugs that are in short supply but not yet out of stock, people who live in urban areas with a choice of drugstores, and have cars to help them travel as they search for medicines, are at a distinct advantage.

“The shortage creates gaps between those who know how to get by and those who don’t, especially those in the geographic and social periphery, and increases inequality,” Prof. Hagai Levine, chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, told The Times of Israel.

“This has been known for several weeks and it has various factors, some of which will continue, requiring more activity from the Health Ministry and not leaving it to market forces.”

The pharmacists’ association urged  Horowitz, in its letter, to get the ministry involved in restoring the supply of missing drugs.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz party faction meeting in the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“The lack of a particular medicine has a negative effect on the stocks of generic substitutes for the same medicine, which also become depleted,” the pharmacists’ association wrote, adding that the Health Ministry must “formulate solutions.”

The Health Ministry did not respond to a Times of Israel request for comment.

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