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Parents of children with epilepsy have been unable to get access to a vital drug for weeks, with GPs and pharmacists unsure what to safely prescribe instead.

Rivotril is used to treat epilepsy in infants, children, and adults — but the tablets have been marked as out of stock in Ireland, with one GP estimating they have been gone for as many as six weeks.

The tablets are benzodiazepines, a sedative medicine used to control seizures.

Sinéad Cronin, a GP with the Drumcondra Medical practice, said parents are frustrated at the delays.

“You can understand their frustration,” Dr Cronin said.

They have this medication which for a lot of them is life-changing, and I don’t know what the alternative is.

“I definitely noticed in the last six weeks — over four to six weeks I would say — it has been on our radar.”

Dr Cronin has been asked by pharmacists to prescribe a substitute medication, but she is not comfortable doing this, as it is a specialised area of medicine.

“We are telling people to go back to the services, to the psychiatrist,” she said

“It is such a fob-off, but I don’t know how to do this. To me, it is a drug error waiting to happen. The potential for making an error is huge. ”

Dr Cronin said temporary shortages of various medications have become more of an issue since Brexit.

“It is the patients who are suffering — the patients’ families,” she said.

Niamh Lynch, a paediatrician at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, has also spoken about the problem. Dr Lynch said:

The Rivotril shortage is causing huge stress for parents/caregivers of children dependent on this medication for seizure control. 

“It is not simply a matter of offering another benzodiazepine. Transitioning takes weeks/months in order to be done safely.”

It is understood the product was expected back in stock last week.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority monitors medicine shortages in Ireland.

A spokeswoman said the pharmaceutical company has blamed manufacturing delays for the problem.

The tablets are expected to be back with medicine wholesalers this week and in pharmacies after that.

“The company that places Rivotril 0.5mg tablets on the Irish market, Cheplapharm, has confirmed that the product was shipped at the end of last week,” said the spokeswoman.

 

Source: irishexaminer.com, Niamh Griffin

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