NEWS
18/01/2019 08:07 GMT | Updated 18/01/2019 12:04 GMT

Pharmacists Warn Of Medicine 'Shortage' In The Wake Of Brexit Uncertainty

Patients are complaining of delays in getting access to drugs.

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Pharmacists are warning of a shortage in many common medicines as the UK prepares to leave the EU, with some having to pay increased prices for them.

As a result, patients are complaining of delays in getting access to drugs such as painkillers, anti-depressants and blood pressure medication.

There has been a big rise in the number of drugs on the “shortage of supply” list for England, the BBC has found, leaving many experts fearing uncertainly about Brexit will make the situation worse.

Jody Butler, pharmacist for Pari-chem, told ITV Anglia: “At the moment there is an issue with drug supply, probably more so than at any point in my past career.

“Brexit is one of the issues that might be playing into that but obviously the drug market is a complicated one and they’ll be multiple factors.

“We are running out of several quite basic drugs, which obviously is causing complications for the patients, delays in getting patients treatment and costing time for pharmacies and GPs.”

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government has instructed manufacturers of both branded and generic drugs to stockpile six weeks’ worth of supplies, to enable people to access their medications.

Gareth Jones, from the National Pharmacy Association, told the BBC: “Uncertainty over Brexit appears to be a significant factor”, adding that patients do not seem to be panicking about getting their medicines after a possible no-deal Brexit, but that he thinks there could be an element of “unconscious stockpiling”.

There are 80 medicines in such short supply that the Department of Health has agreed to pay a premium for them – an increase of more than 50% since October.

While most people will be able to get their prescriptions filled as normal, those who specifically need one of the drugs that is short supply will bear the brunt of this crisis.

Some pharmacists are sending patients back to their GPs to ask for a different medicine or dosage.

Others are giving as much of a drug as they can spare and sending people away with IOU slips which they can show upon revisiting for the remainder.

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The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) keeps track of which drugs are in such short supply and for which ones the NHS has agreed to intermittently fork out a higher amount.

A BBC analysis of this data has revealed that the number of medications on the list has grown six-fold in three years.

The government stresses that two million prescription items are dispensed in England every day, and the vast majority of medicines are not in short supply.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We have not seen any evidence of current medicine supply issues linked to EU exit preparations.

“We have well established processes to manage and mitigate the small number of supply problems that may arise at any one time due to manufacturing or distribution issues and this has always been the case - every day over 2 million prescription items are successfully dispensed in England.

“We continue to work closely with industry and partners to ensure patients receive the medicines they need.”