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Supply issues

Minister urged to review supply issues with epilepsy medicines

An epilepsy charity has urged the health secretary to launch an “urgent review” of the medicines supply chain following a “steep rise” in the number of patients unable to access their epilepsy medicines.

In a statement made on 8 April 2019, the Epilepsy Society warned that the “anxiety and stress caused” to patients who are not able to acquire their medicines puts them “at greater risk of seizures”.

The charity has, therefore, asked Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, to commission a review tackling the “underlying issue in the supply chain and getting a better deal for people with epilepsy and other long-term health conditions”.

Clare Pelham, chief executive of the Epilepsy Society, said: “It is simply not good enough for drugs manufacturers to say ‘production issues’ or ‘just-in-time manufacture problems’ and shrug their shoulders whenever a shortage occurs. People with epilepsy deserve better.

“Surely the least that we can do — the government, charities and the pharmaceutical industry — is to work together to ensure that the supply of this essential medication is reliable every day, every week, and every month — year in and year out.”

The charity’s statement added that although Brexit has highlighted the issues around medicines shortages, “the problem has been ongoing for more than a decade, with problems in the supply chain being blamed for low levels of stock”.

To mitigate the impact of drugs shortages, the government implemented new legislation in February 2019 that allows pharmacists switch patients’ medicines according to a “serious shortage protocol”, if the drug they were prescribed was in short supply.

However, the government has already said that it will not issue a “serious shortage protocol” for epilepsy because “the medicines that are prescribed need to be prescribed by brand for clinical reasons”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206406

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