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This one chart shows how panic buying has swept Australian pharmacies as people are urged to refrain from hoarding medication

Jack Derwin
  • Pharmacies are reporting a 130% spike in online orders in recent weeks.
  • Pharmacies including Amcal, Bloms and TerryWhite chemists have seen panadol orders double over recent weeks, topping the list of over-counter medications in demand.
  • Pharmacists have issued a call for calm to ensure those who need medication most can find what they need.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

Images of empty supermarket shelves have shown an ugly side to the coronavirus pandemic, as fear and anxiety take hold of some people.

But now new data shows demand for supplies has extended to medication as well, as people fear shortages.

MedAdvisor, which powers online ordering for pharmacy lines including Amcal, Blooms, and TerryWhite Chemmart, has seen demand more than double, surging more than 130% last week.

The chart below, supplied to Business Insider Australia, compares how orders have tracked against the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia.

It clearly shows how orders skyrocketed after 15 March, as the number of coronavirus confirmations shot up.

Panadol has been among one of the most in-demand purchases after the World Health Organisation initially advised people with coronavirus symptoms to take paracetamol instead of ibuprofen due to the latter's anti-inflammatory properties -- the organisation has appeared to since walk back that advice.

Other over-the-counter medications being bought up include blood glucose strips to monitor diabetes and Ventolin. Prescription meds used to treat cardiovascular and stomach issues, as well as depression, have all seen increased ordering.

While Australians may be prudent in having a supply of medication on hand, it's vital they don't go overboard, according to MedAdviser CEO Robert Read.

"I can’t believe I’m having to say this but please do not overbuy medicine, work with your pharmacy to ensure you have an adequate supply," he said in a statement issued to Business Insider Australia. "If everyone buys just what they need, there will be enough medication, like Ventolin and paracetamol to go around."

"We’ve been told by many of our pharmacists that in many cases they’re now processing double the number of prescriptions every day and they’re having to work long hours and extra days to keep up with the demand."

Rampant buying has in some cases wreaked havoc on supply chains, as some pharmacies run out altogether. Steve Kastranakis, the owner of an Advantage Group Pharmacy in Warragul Victoria, said the 12,5000 person town had run out of Ventolin.

"The demand is unbelievable, I have run out of key over-the-counter products and our supply chain has been impacted by the panic buyers," Kastranakis said in a statement.

"Please work with your pharmacist to order and pay in advance so we can ensure you, and everyone else, has an adequate supply of the medications they need."

It comes just one week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a similar rebuke to those panic-buying supplies from supermarkets.

"On bulk purchasing of supplies: Stop hoarding. I can't be more blunt about it. Stop it," Mr Morrison said. "It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis."

"That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing."

The same censure can now apply to Australia's pharmaceuticals.