A BENDIGO man is facing difficult access to a prescribed antidepressant medication, as international supply becomes short.
Jonathan Darke has struggled to find a reliable source of prescribed antidepressant Nardil phenelzine, or a generic equivalent, since October 2019.
Rarely prescribed, Mr Darke has found phenelzine the only medication he has tried to successfully treat his depression and anxiety.
In April the drug Nardil was deregistered in Australia - taking it from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Mr Darke then expected to pay four times the amount for a supply of the same-drug type, phenelzine, from an overseas supplier.
Mr Darke said since April he had struggled to get hold of the medication, which he was eventually told had been discontinued.
Mr Darke has reduced his daily dose, both to eke out his supplies and save money, as he buys small batches of remaining stocks from specialist importers.
He's managed to scrape together a few months supply, after which he will reassess the situation.
The Department of Health has confirmed international supply of phenelzine was limited, with no alternatives available.
Phenelzine is an early antidepressant, dating from the 1960s. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Association previously instructed it should only be prescribed to patients who failed to respond to other medications.
Mr Darke came to phenelzine after about 18 years trying other antidepressants which were not as effective.
Many people who hadn't experienced depression seemed to have an underlying belief that there were plenty of medication options out there, he said.
Mr Darke said it was a long process to find an antidepressant that was effective for him.
"I don't want to get back on that carousel of finding new medication every six months," he said.
"I guess I'm being stubborn about it, I want to dig my heels in.
"The last few years of taking this I've been feeling good, and I haven't felt like that for a long time. And I feel angry about it, that for whatever reason they're saying 'You can't have this anymore'."
Mr Darke believes about 1000 people are still relying on phenelzine in Australia.
A Department of Health spokesperson said international supply of phenelzine was very limited, with no alternative brands on the Australian market, and no supply under section 19A of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.
This allows importation of a specific therapeutic good with special permission, as a substitute for those in short supply.
Pharmaceutical companies, rather than the Australian government, make decisions about supply.
A DHS spokesperson said patients should seek advice from their psychiatrist or other prescriber as soon as possible.
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