A BENDIGO man fears he could have been left without a supply of vital medication as Australia faces a shortage due to last until April.
Thomas* said he was lucky to realise stocks of antidepressant Nardil phenelzine was limited in Australia while he still had several months' supply.
He does not know how he would have coped without the medication, the only one which has worked to treat his depression of 20 years.
When Thomas visited his regular pharmacist, he was told by an staff member to speak to his doctor about trying another type of medication. He rang around pharmacies in Bendigo trying to find the drug in supply, before travelling to Melbourne to pick some up at a pharmacist there.
Eventually Thomas was able to secure a supply of the Canadian produced version of the drug after asking the pharmacy to contact Nardil's supplier Link Pharmaceuticals.
But he said he would like to see patients warned of any upcoming shortages, rather than having to feel responsible for solving the problem themselves.
Thomas said he does not know what he would have done without a supply of Nardil.
"If I hadn't got on the front foot ... I would have fallen through the cracks. I spoke to the pharmacist and she said there's no real system in place for alerting people beforehand if there's a shortage," he said.
"It could have been really bad for me. I've had an ongoing problem with depression and anxiety. It's chronic pretty much, it's just something I've lived with over the years.
"If there's been a gap and I couldn't get it and I'd run out, it don't know what would have happened. I would have been in a pretty bad way. If I'd had to suddenly come off it I don't know how I would have coped."
The Department of Health confirmed a shortage of Nardil phenelzine began in early March.
A spokesperson said Link Pharmaceuticals had advised the department that the phenelzine would not be in full supply until April of 2020.
The spokesperson recommended pharmacists access an alternative supply of the same medicine imported from Canada.
A letter from Link to healthcare professionals available online dated April 12, explains alternative supply systems for Nardil during the shortage.
Phenelzine is an early antidepressant, dating from the 1960s. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Association instructs that phenelzine should be used for patients who have failed to respond to other depression medications.
Link Pharmaceuticals was approached for comment on this story.
*Name has been changed
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