UK Pharmacists Warn Medicine Shortages Put Patients at Risk
08:40 GMT 11.08.2022 (Updated: 12:36 GMT 11.08.2022)
The issue first came to the fore in April, when shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs resulted in an outcry, with doctors warning that some women will resort to unorthodox methods to get the medication they need.
British pharmacists have expressed concern over medicine shortages in the UK, which they believe put patients at risk, a new poll has revealed.
A survey of 1,562 UK pharmacists for the Pharmaceutical Journal found that more than 54% of respondents said that patients had been put at risk in the last six months due to drug shortages.
The outlet cited an unnamed pharmacist from a children's hospital in England as saying that problems pertaining to variable supply of nutritional products may pose threat to patients’ health.
“We had to ration it, and this has potentially put patients at risk of vitamin deficiencies,” the pharmacist pointed out.
They were echoed by another hospital pharmacist, who voiced alarm about drugs being unavailable at the end of a patient's life.
“There was no alternative for one patient who had to deal with an additional symptom in his last days of life due to lack of available treatment,” the source told the Pharmaceutical Journal.
The same tone was struck by Mike Dent, director of pharmacy funding at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, who said in an interview with the journal that they are “becoming increasingly concerned about medicine supply issues and the very serious impact this is having on both community pharmacy teams and their patients.”
A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care, in turn, stressed that they “take patient safety extremely seriously, and […] routinely share information about medicine supply issues directly with the NHS [National Health Service] so they can put plans in place to reduce the risk of any shortage impacting patients, including offering alternative medication.”
"We have well-established procedures to deal with medicine shortages and work closely with industry, the NHS and others to prevent shortages and resolve any issues as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added.
The remarks followed the UK government issuing a number of "medicine supply notifications," which highlight shortages of a whole array of key drugs, including live-saving ones such as antibiotics, insulin and antidepressants.
The issue first came to light at the end of April 2022, when a shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medication left some women in the UK sharing prescriptions and feeling suicidal. HRT is used to relieve most symptoms of menopause and it works by replacing hormones that are at a lower level.
According to the UK newspaper Express, drug shortages “are being caused by a shortage of raw ingredients used to manufacture medicines. These are often supplied by countries in the Far East. There are also rising costs set by pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers.”