Toilet paper, minced meat and diabetes medicines: Australian panic buying induced by COVID-19

Teyl Engstrom, Dolly O. Baliunas, Benjamin P. Sly, Anthony W. Russell, Peter J. Donovan, Heike K. Krausse, Clair M. Sullivan, Jason D. Pole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the management of non-communicable diseases in health systems around the world. This study aimed to understand the impact of COVID-19 on diabetes medicines dispensed in Australia. Publicly available data from Australia’s government subsidised medicines program (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), detailing prescriptions by month dispensed to patients, drug item code and patient category, was obtained from January 2016 to November 2020. This study focused on medicines used in diabetes care (Anatomical Therapeutical Chemical code level 2 = A10). Number of prescriptions dispensed were plotted by month at a total level, by insulins and non-insulins, and by patient category (general, concessional). Total number of prescriptions dispensed between January and November of each year were compared. A peak in prescriptions dispensed in March 2020 was identified, an increase of 35% on March 2019, compared to average growth of 7.2% in previous years. Prescriptions dispensed subsequently fell in April and May 2020 to levels below the corresponding months in 2019. These trends were observed across insulins, non-insulins, general and concessional patient categories. The peak and subsequent dip in demand have resulted in a small unexpected overall increase for the period January to November 2020, compared to declining growth for the same months in prior years. The observed change in consumer behaviour prompted by COVID-19 and the resulting public health measures is important to understand in order to improve management of medicines supply during potential future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6954
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Diabetes
  • Health behaviour
  • Health services research
  • Routinely collected health data

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