Insulin shortages causing ‘significant anxiety’ for diabetics

Insulin shortages causing 'significant anxiety' for diabetics

Shortages of insulin are causing supply issues for type 1 diabetics in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about supply shortages. It said: ‘It is unacceptable that some members of our community have had to face an additional hurdle to get this life-saving medication in their usual formulation.’

While some formulations of insulin are still available as normal, many diabetic patients are reportedly unable to access their usual medication. JDRF director of policy Hilary Nathan stressed that this ‘could be enormously disruptive and distressing’.

Speaking to the Guardian, she said: ‘People with type 1 diabetes must regulate their own insulin injections and dose, so it’s imperative that they have confidence in the supply of their regular type of insulin. The news of any shortages could cause significant anxiety to people with type 1 diabetes.’

‘The government needs to step in’

One of the insulin brands currently in short supply is Humalog, manufactured by Eli Lilly. The manufacturer has said it is actively monitoring the situation and working to minimise the impact of supply disruption.

An Eli Lily spokesperson said: ‘Anyone experiencing difficulty in getting their prescription filled should contact their doctor to discuss options. People who need insulin immediately and cannot access their doctor for an alternative treatment option should seek emergency care.’

Douglas Twenefour, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: ‘We know it can be unsettling if people have to change how they manage their diabetes. With this in mind, we’re asking healthcare professionals to take into account the circumstances and needs of anyone affected. This should include a discussion to ensure they can continue to manage their treatment, and should include a prescription for any new device they need.’

Community Pharmacy England called on the government to ‘step in’ to mitigate the shortages. Director of pharmacy funding, Mike Dent, said: ‘Community pharmacies are already weighed down by long-standing funding pressures and it is a battle to keep up with the large number of medicines supply issues.

‘This has challenging consequences for patients, who experience delays in accessing crucial medications. The government needs to step in and do more to stabilise the medicines market, address supply chain disruptions, and ensure there’s better access to essential medications for patients.’

‘New normal’

A report by Nuffield Trust described medication shortages as the ‘new normal’ following the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. Brexit programme lead Mark Dayan said: ‘The rise in shortages of vital medicines from rare to commonplace has been a shocking development that few would have expected a decade ago.

‘More and more patients across the UK are experiencing a pharmacist telling them that their medication is not available, it may not be available soon, and it may not be available anywhere nearby. This is also creating a great deal of extra work for both GPs and pharmacists.’

He added: ‘We know many of the problems are global and relate to fragile chains of imports from Asia, squeezed by COVID-19 shutdowns, inflation and global instability.

‘Officials in the UK have put in place a much more sophisticated system to monitor and respond, and used extra payments to try to keep products flowing. But exiting the EU has left the UK with several additional problems.

‘Products no longer flow as smoothly across the borders with the EU, and in the long term our struggles to approve as many medicines might mean we have fewer alternatives available.’

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