Some morphine dosages used for pain relief are in short supply.
Some morphine dosages used for pain relief are in short supply. Iain Curry

HURTING: Popular pain relief medicine in short supply

CLARENCE Valley pharmacies are running out of supplies of morphine most suited to pain relief for cancer and palliative care patients.

Maclean pharmacist Ken Hallgath said his pharmacy had been forced to borrow supplies from Maclean Hospital to make up its stocks of 5mg and 10mg morphine ampoules.

Mr Hallgath said his business, Stanfords Pharmacy, supplies the 5mg and 10mg ampoules to Mareeba Nursing Home.

He said the principal supplier of the drug to pharmacies, multi-national company Pfizer, had informed its customers there was a nationwide shortage of the 5mg and 10mg ampoules of the drug which would not be rectified until July.

Yesterday, Pfizer confirmed it could no longer provide pharmacies with those dosages of the drug, but said supplies could start to flow again by early in June.

Mr Hallgath said patients needing morphine could switch to other products but this was not always optimum.

"Where morphine is prescribed, it's the best product available,” he said. "If doctors prescribe another product, there could be side effects, or it might not work as effectively as pain relief.”

The deputy director of nursing at Mareeba, Michael Moore, said the shortage was not causing issues for the aged care centre.

He said the centre did not use a lot of morphine and would be able to find alternatives if necessary.

The pharmacist at Grafton's Chemist Warehouse, Dan Fahey, said pharmacies were able to cover these issues as they arose.

"It's something that happens from time to time,” he said. "We urge patients to speak to their doctors about alternative medications.”

He said issues about the effectiveness of alternative medications were "discussion points” but it was important patients not become alarmed about this shortage.

The Daily Examiner has learned there have been shortages of the drug for the past year.

Some patients with chronic conditions have been without morphine for up to two months at a time or forced onto other medications.

A spokesman for Pfizer said the shortage of morphine sulfate 5mg and 10mg doses was due to a transit delay for new stock arriving in Australia.

"Pfizer does have limited stock available that is currently being supplied to hospitals on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

"Alternative formulations of morphine are currently available from other suppliers.

"Pfizer is working hard to resolve this issue and we anticipate stock will arrive and be available to pharmacies in early June.”