Shortages of psychiatric medication is hitting hard


“The impact of protracted shortages of psychiatric medication in the country is beginning to be felt by both the patients, who are in desperate need of the drugs to keep them stable, and their families, who have to live with the consequences,” wrote Vuyo Mkize in City Press (22 November 2020).

According to Ruth Dube, from the Stop the Stockouts Project, which tracks the availability of essential medicines around the country, since April this year, 2% to 3% of the 250 stockout reports it received were related to psychiatric drugs. In August, it went up to 11% of the 280 reported stockouts - and notifications of shortages of mental health drugs were increasing, she said. Drugs that were in short supply included haloperidol (used mainly to treat schizophrenia), lithium (used for bipolar disorder and major depressive episodes), olanzapine (used for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia), carbamazepine and sodium valproate (used for epilepsy and bipolar disorder), diazepam (used for anxiety disorders), amitriptyline and lamotrigine (an anti-epileptic drug). Even the alternatives are out of stock, said Dube.

“The Health Department has cited the reasons for the shortages of medications as being shortages of active pharmaceutical ingredients, increased prices of these ingredients, inconsistent supply from manufacturers and increased demand for medicine due to Covid-19.”


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