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Medicine shortages

Medicine shortage problem is far from solved, warns APPG

Shortages of branded medicines are now less visible than they were two years ago but the problem is still ongoing, according to the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG).

The APPG, who held an inquiry into drug shortages two years ago, believes the improvement can be explained by exchange rate fluctuations, with a strong pound leading to a decline in the parallel export of medicines intended for British patients, and that the underlying issues are still a concern.

“The problem is far from solved,” said Kevin Barron, Labour MP and the group’s chairman. “[Medicine] quotas imposed by manufacturers and some wholesalers remain in force. These are often opaque and inflexible, meaning that community pharmacists are still having to spend a large amount of their time negotiating to obtain the medicines their patients need.”

The group, who raise awareness of the pharmacy profession, claimed that pharmacists are having to ration medicines in order to manage drug shortages. It believes the government should be doing more to address the problem, suggesting the Department of Health (DoH) publish updated supply chain guidance addressing best practice in quota setting and management.

The APPG also noted the growing problem in the supply of generic medicines, which was not a concern when the inquiry was held. Some of the causes of generic shortages reflect the globalisation of the generics market, but that cannot be an excuse for “no action here in the UK”, says the APPG.

The statement follows an APPG meeting on drug shortages on 16 July 2014 with representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, wholesalers, the DoH and pharmacy bodies.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20065979

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