People will only be able to pick up a one-month supply of most prescription medications during the coronavirus lockdown, the Government announced today in a move to try to stop people from stockpiling.
The oral contraceptive pill will be available on a three-month supply, instead of the usual six-month, while other funded pharmaceuticals are reduced to one month.
The new restrictions will be in place from 11.59pm tonight, Ministry of Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced on behalf of Pharmac today.
"There are no problems with the supply chain at the moment," Dr Bloomfield says, adding that they've seen "some stockpiling from people".
"This relates to ensuring that all people can access the pharmaceuticals they need over the coming months.
"We do not want to get into the position where some people are unable to get the pharmas they need because others have them stockpiled at home."
Prescription paracetamol was placed under the same restriction earlier this year.
The new restrictions don't affect doctors' ability to prescribe medications and repeats will still be able to be collected as usual.
Pharmacies are still able to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis for dispensing more than one month's supply at a time, Dr Bloomfield says.
In its own statement, Pharmac's chief executive Sarah Fitt emphasised said there are no significant medicine shortages in New Zealand - but stockpiling is putting strain on the supply chains.
"We need to ensure that every New Zealander will continue to have access to the medicines they need and that vulnerable communities don’t miss out," she says.
"We do not make this decision lightly, as we know this means people who are in isolation will potentially have to visit pharmacies more often.
"However, despite messages to prescribers, pharmacies and the general public, stockpiling behaviour has not slowed down."
Today Dr Bloomfield also confirmed 73 new coronavirus cases in New Zealand in the last day, bringing the total to 283.
Twenty-seven people have recovered from Covid-19 in New Zealand.