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NEWS: Pharmacy frustration at drug shortages

by in GP Practice Management, News

Hormone replacement drugs lead a long list of items which pharmacists say are in short supply, according to a survey published today.

Drugs for diabetes, epilepsy, dermatology care and hypertension can also be hard to obtain, according to the survey of pharmacists.

Some 84% reported problems in obtaining HRT while 67% reported contraceptive shortages and 58% said they had problems obtaining anti-epileptic drugs.

Some pharmacists talked of leaving the profession in the survey of 420 professionals undertaken by Chemist and Druggist magazine. Respondents said they felt supplies were “on a knife edge.”

The Department of Health and Social Care denied that shortages were linked to Brexit. It was expected to announce new initiatives today to improve supply of HRT and fluoxetine.

The serious shortage protocol will allow pharmacists to offer different dosages of drug if the prescribed one is not available.

Alima Batchelor, head of policy at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, said: “Whilst these shortages cannot be ascribed to Brexit, they do show the need for concerted action to ensure that leaving the EU will not exacerbate an already unacceptable level of drug shortages.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We fully understand the concerns of those who require medications in their daily lives and want to reassure them that we are doing everything appropriate so they can access the medicines they need. We have no evidence to suggest current or previous supply issues are linked to Brexit.

“The department is working with partners in industry and the health and care system to help ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted after October 31, whatever the circumstances.”

Dr Farah Jameel, from the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “It’s vital that patients are protected from medicine shortages as much as possible, particularly as we head into the winter months – when pressure on NHS services is most intense – and uncertainty grows around the fallout of a potential no-deal Brexit.

“While this protocol is a sensible measure in theory, patients must have the reassurance that changing the strength or form of their much-needed medication – in this case commonly used for mental health-related conditions – won’t have any adverse effects. Furthermore, we have to be sure that it won’t add to GP workload or cause unnecessary confusion among practice teams.

“The crux of the issue, however, is ensuring that problems concerning the manufacturing and supply of medicines are promptly addressed, so that serious shortage protocols are only used as an absolute last resort and patients can continue to access the recommended forms of medication regardless of where they live.”

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