Shortages of critical pain relief continue

The persistent issues with the supply of essential pain relief medications continue to generate concern among patients, families, and healthcare providers.

Of particular concern is the current supply of oral liquid morphine products, critical for patients of all ages in the last phase of their life with diseases including cancer, advanced lung disease, and Motor Neurone Disease.

Palliative Care Australia has recently summarised the current advice from the TGA regarding alternative temporary (Section 19A products) liquid morphine medicines and it is available by clicking HERE.

NSW Health has also issued an updated Safety Notice for NSW Health Staff on the changes to supply of morphine oral liquid that can be accessed HERE.

As mentioned in our last article regarding pain medicine shortages, it is anticipated that in August we will begin to witness the implementation of some of the long-term solutions, however in the meantime, healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and caregivers are tasked with handling varying supplies on a week-to-week basis.

Palliative care physician in south west Sydney and Palliative Care Australia Chair, Prof Meera Agar says having to swap between various products to fill the gap in the supply chain is an unnecessary workaround with significant impacts for people where time is precious.

“Pain management requires an individualised approach. It’s work we do side by side with the patient and their carer, who is often the person administering this medication,” Prof Agar says.

“Use of a particular medicine is supported by experience, education, and evidence – but instead we find ourselves needing to ring around and find supplies, adding medical appointments, getting scripts, relearning a new medication regimen – and having to communicate that to people at a time where they are unwell.

“It’s easy to get confused about how to manage your medications when it keeps being swapped around depending on supply, not to mention the side-effects that can come from new and changing medicines.” (Source Palliative Care Australia)

Palliative Care NSW surveyed our members to hear their experiences of accessing alternate supply of oral Liquid Morphine across NSW.

A majority of respondents indicated that they have found it extremely difficult to access alternate supply of oral Liquid Morphine within their services, highlighting unreliable, limited and delayed access to the medication. They commented on the stress and confusion this causes to patients and their families, as well as the extensive time spent by clinicians “trying to source adequate medications with no success”. As a result, our members explained that patients are “ending up in emergency departments instead of spending quality time in their place of preference”.

We would like to thank our members who shared their insights through this survey. PCNSW is working closely with Palliative Care Australia to understand these medicine shortages and keep our members updated as developments continue in this space.


  • Palliative Care Australia has summarised the current advice from the TGA regarding alternative temporary (Section 19A products) liquid morphine medicines and it is available by clicking HERE.
  • Update as at 27 June from TGA about the shortage of Ordine (morphine) oral liquid can be found by clicking HERE.
  • Download recent information developed for clinicians working in NSW regarding current medicines shortages by clicking HERE.