Medication Shortages in the UK

People in the UK are currently having problems with regards to getting hold of their prescribed medications. There is quite a long list of drugs that we are currently experiencing a shortage of.
There are a lot of questions surrounding this topic which sadly I do not have the answers for, but it is something that I have been researching recently, as I am one of the people who have been affected by this.

Three months ago, I went to the pharmacy to collect my regular prescription of Loestrin 30 (a contraceptive pill). Usually, I would be given a six month supply, however, on this occasion, I was only given three months and was told that I would be contacted when the remaining part of my prescription was in store. I am about to start the last packet of my three month supply and had still not heard from the pharmacy, so I decided to give them a call. I gave them all my details and the lady checked their system for my prescription details… when she came back to the phone she told me that Loestrin have discontinued their products and that is why no one had been in touch with me. So I now need to book in to see my doctor in order for them to offer me an alternative pill to take. I am lucky in the sense that there are various pills available… although I have been on Loestrin for seven years and never had any issues or concerns, so I am a little bit worried about how changing my pill will affect my body.

I recently spoke with a lovely young lady who has experienced a shortage with Propranolol, a medication commonly used for anxiety as well as various heart problems such as irregular heart rate and essential tremors. Luckily she takes these for anxiety and only had to go for one day without her tablets. However, if someone was taking these tablets for a heart problem, going one day without them could have been much more dangerous and possibly life-threatening.

A survey across UK pharmacies shows that there is a significant drug shortage across 36 major categories of medicine. Some of the drugs on this list include:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Corticosteroids (a form of steroid and anti-inflammatory medication)
  • Diabetic drugs – A fifth of pharmacies said they are experiencing a shortage of these vital medications)
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy Drugs (HRT’s – Used to alleviate symptoms of menopause)
  • Contraceptives (two-thirds of pharmacies are experiencing a shortage in contraceptive medications)

You can check out the full list here and some figures and statistics here!

360,000 prescriptions of Hormone Replacement Therapy medications go out each month! These medications help to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, something that millions of women will experience in their lives. 84% of pharmacists when surveyed said that they have experienced a shortage in HRT’s, leaving many women short on their prescriptions or in some cases without their meds at all.

Mental health help and support is still one of the most forgotten about areas when it comes to the NHS. This area does not receive the amount of funding that it so desperately needs and to make matters worse, the NHS are seeing a shortage in antidepressant drugs to the point where the government have introduced a ‘serious shortage protocol’ for Fluoxetine. This protocol allows pharmacists to give their patients an alternative dosage of the medication or an alternative form of it while the shortage is the way that it is.

The government have also announced a ban on some drug exports. This is designed to stop wholesalers from selling some medications, that are for the use of UK patients, to other countries at a higher price than what they paid for them.

Ministers have said that the drug shortages are not in any way, connected to Brexit, although there are many people and NHS workers who are convinced otherwise.

Consultant cardiologist professor, Andrew Clark, said that he was ‘alarmed’ by the potential shortages and said that a no-deal Brexit, from a medical point of view, is likely to be a little short of a disaster. Health unions warn that leaving the EU without a deal could have devastating effects on the NHS; especially leading up to the winter months when the pressures are extremely high for them. It could spark drug shortages that could potentially be fatal.

Sources:

Yorkshire Evening Post – Medication shortages: full list of drugs UK pharmacies are running low on

BBC News – Drug Exports Restricted ‘To Protect NHS Patients’

The Mirror – No-Deal Brexit ‘Could Put Thousands of People at Risk as Life-Saving Drugs Run Out’

PulseToday – Drug Shortages – How GP’s Are Kept out of the Loop

Have you experienced any issues getting hold of your usual prescriptions? Do you know of any drug shortages in your local pharmacy? Do you believe that these shortages are down to Brexit? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and experiences in the comments below.

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