The sale of some commonly used medicines will be restricted in Finland in order to ensure enough availability during the next predicted coronavirus wave, the health ministry announced on Tuesday.

Users of the painkiller paracetamol and of the anti-inflammatory drug Dexamethasone will only be allowed to buy up to three months’ supply in one go, under special measures which are to be introduced immediately and continue until January next year.

The limits aim to “prepare for a possible increase in the global demand” if coronavirus cases spike over the autumn and winter, a statement from the health ministry said.

Paracetamol is an over-the-counter painkiller commonly used to treat fever, but worldwide supplies have been hit after the pandemic caused some ingredient manufacturers, particularly in China, to reduce their output.

“We are taking this step so that even if the problems continue with the supply and logistics of paracetamol, we will have enough for every patient who needs it,” senior health ministry specialist Noora Oinonen told AFP.

Meanwhile, the steroid Dexamethasone was found by a UK study in June to benefit patients critically ill with COVID-19, although the World Health Organization has not yet decided whether to endorse the drug as a coronavirus treatment.

“We only have a small market for Dexamethasone in Finland, so if the WHO recommends it in its guidelines, there is a threat that sales of the medicine might grow quickly,” Oinonen said.

Finnish health officials said that medicine stockpiles have “generally remained at a good level” during the pandemic.

The Nordic country of 5.5 million has recorded almost 7,800 infections and 334 deaths related to coronavirus.

After an early summer with only a trickle of new cases, the incidence of the virus is now creeping back up, leading the government to impose tighter border restrictions and recommend face mask use earlier this month.

AFP