medicine

UK faces medicine shortages

Many feared that the UK leaving the EU would cause shortages and limitations to the medicine supply throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Now ten months on from Brexit are we finally seeing the short fallings?

Ninety percent of the UK's medicines are imported from abroad meaning disruptions caused by the outcomes of Brexit and a lack of HGV drivers has caused a significant problem in transporting drugs into the country.

Leaked Department of Health and Social Care documents revealed two hundred and nine medicines had supply “issues” in 2019, more than half of these remained in short supply for over three months. Drugs such as hepatitis vaccines and anti-epileptic drugs, faced “extended” problems.

A document published by the NHS Nottinghamshire Shared Medicines Management Team compiled a list of shortages and disruptions to supply due to COVID.

The following 5 products had long-term manufacturing issues:

  • AstraZeneca’s Zyban (bupropion, anti-smoking drug)
  • Par’s Questran (colestyramine, a bile acid sequestrant)
  • Diamorphine (a painkiller, used for cancer patients)
  • Metoprolol (used for high blood pressure)
  • Co-Careldopa (given to people with Parkinson’s disease)

A further thirty medicines had short-term manufacturing issues, including end of life medicines such as morphine and anti-vomiting drug, levomepromazine.

NHS Scotland and NHS Wales have published lists of drugs in low supply which are available to view on their NHS websites. NHS England consider this to be ‘sensitive information’ and have not published any shortfalls.

An amendment to The Human Medicines Regulations 2019 legislation has added a ‘Serious Shortage Protocol’ (SSP). This allows for pharmacists and contractors to supply patients with a ‘reasonable and appropriate substitute’ if their prescription has an active SSP.

Currently, shortages on Fluxoetine, (anti-depressive drug) and Estradot patches, (hormonal replacement therapy) have active SSP’s according to the NHS Business Service Authority.

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