Experts warns of ‘worrying’ prescription drug shortage

Association warns of 'worrying' prescription drug shortage

Half (49%) of respondents had struggled to get a prescription drug dispensed in the past two years, a recent survey found.

One in 12 (8%) were also unable to obtain the necessary medication at all despite going to multiple pharmacies. One third (31%) said their prescription was out of stock at their pharmacy, while 23% said the pharmacy did not have enough of the medication available.

The information was collected through a survey of 2,028 people conducted by Opinium for the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA). Speaking to The Guardian, BGMA chief executive Mark Samuels said the shortages were ‘deeply worrying’. He warned of potential impacts to patients’ physical health and mental health due to the stress of being unable to source medication.

In January 2022, 52 drugs were considered to be in short supply. The number now stands at 100, including antibiotics, antidepressants and medications for cancer, diabetes and epilepsy.

When asked about potential causes of the shortages, 36% of respondents believed Brexit was the reason. Inflation was another commonly cited factor (33%), as was global conflict or instability (26%).

Mark Samuels added: ‘Several factors are contributing to the problem and the Brexit agreement is definitely one of them. For example, medicines made here can’t be exported to Europe but those made on the continent can be brought here.

‘This gives zero incentive to increase manufacturing capacity in the UK, a capability that could help with shortages.’

Are prescription drug shortages the ‘new normal’?

In April, Nuffield Trust released a report describing medication shortages as a ‘new normal’ following COVID-19 and Brexit.

Brexit programme lead at the trust Mark Dayan said: ‘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.

‘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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