The manufacturer of orlistat (Xenical®) has written to healthcare professionals advising that there is a stock shortage of this product.
The shortage is due to manufacturing issues and the manufacturer has now exhausted supplies in their distribution centres. There are likely to be some supplies currently in the wholesaler chain and on pharmacy shelves. The letter does not give an explicit indication when supplies will resume but the manufacturer states it "will issue further communications over the next few weeks".
Action: Clinicians should be aware of this expected shortage. Alternative treatment options are limited so it may be prudent to limit new initiations and to advise existing patient to try alternative outlets when caching prescriptions.
Update: The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have reported on this same issue but have noted that generic alternatives are available. This may limit any impact of this shortage.
Update 2: As of 21 March 2012, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have added an update to their site advising that Xenical® is expected to be out of stock for several months.
Update 3: As of 31 July 2012, the manufacturer of orlistat announced that corrective actions are now being taken to manufacture and re-supply to the market as quickly as possible. A further update will be made at the end of August although this will not necessarily mean supplies return at that time.
Update 4: On the 31st of August the manufacturer of orlistat stated that "Stocks of Xenical will be available at wholesalers AAH Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Healthcare Ltd by Wednesday 5th September 2012." So, supplies should be here soon but bear in mind it will take a little while longer for the stock to move from wholesalers to individual pharmacies and that back orders may result in continued supply problems until the supply situation stabilises again.