A shortage of some drugs is putting patients at risk, pharmacists have warned.
A poll of 1,562 UK pharmacists for the Pharmaceutical Journal found that more than half (54%) believed patients had been put at risk in the past six months due to shortages.
A number of patients have experienced difficulty in accessing certain medicines in recent months, sometimes having to go to several pharmacies to find their prescription or having to return to their general practitioner to be prescribed an alternative.
The problem arose when shortages of hormone replacement therapy drugs caused outcry earlier this year.
Since June, the government has issued a number of “drug supply notifications”, which highlight shortages.
Some of these include: painkillers used during childbirth; medicines for mouth ulcers; migraine treatment; an antihistamine; a drug used by patients with prostate cancer and endomitosis; an antipsychotic drug used in patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia; a type of inhaler and a certain brand of insulin.
The Pharmaceutical Journal also reported that on August 3 ministers urged hospitals to “keep stocks” of a blood-thinning drug used to treat strokes.
Some pharmacists have expressed concerns about replacing patients on certain medications with alternatives.
Ways to alleviate the shortage
Community pharmacists told the Pharmaceutical Journal this month that shortages of alendronic acid, an osteoporosis drug, were contributing to medication errors when alternatives were prescribed.
The newspaper reports that talks have started with pharmacy leaders and the government on ways to ease the shortages.
Explanation: Why is there a shortage of HRT?
A pharmacist at a children’s hospital in England said problems with a variable supply of nutritional products put patients at risk.
“We had to ration it, and that potentially put patients at risk for vitamin deficiencies,” she said.
Another hospital pharmacist expressed concern about the unavailability of drugs at the end of a patient’s life.
They told the newspaper: “There was no alternative for a patient who had to deal with an additional symptom in his last days of life due to the lack of treatment available.”
Mike Dent, Director of Pharmacy Funding at the Pharmacy Services Negotiating Committee, told the newspaper: “We are increasingly concerned about drug supply issues and the very serious impact this is having on teams. of community pharmacies and their patients.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We take patient safety very seriously and regularly share information about medicine supply issues directly with the NHS so they can put plans in place to reduce the risk of shortages affecting patients, in particular by offering alternative drugs.
“We have well-established procedures for dealing with drug shortages and are working closely with industry, the NHS and others to prevent shortages and resolve any issues as soon as possible.”