The Epilepsy Society has called on the health secretary Matt Hancock to commission an urgent review of the medicines supply chain after it emerged that increasing numbers of patients have struggled to get hold of their medicine in the last few months.
The charity said it had been made aware that epilepsy sufferers had found it increasingly difficult to get medication to control their seizures having been forced to go from pharmacy to pharmacy in search of potentially life-saving drugs.
The situation has come to a head in recent weeks with uncertainty over Brexit intensifying concern that shortages will get worse before they get better and the list of concessionary priced medicines at its biggest since it started in 2014, with 96 products on concession.
The Epilepsy Society said the epilepsy medicine shortage was “the latest peak in an issue which big pharma has failed to resolve for more than a decade” and urged Hancock (pictured) to commission a review to identify the underlying problems in the supply chain.
“Without a consistent supply, a breakthrough seizure can occur meaning that a person with epilepsy may lose their licence, lose their job and lose their quality of life," said Clare Pelham, chief executive of the Epilepsy Society.
“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. It’s not a great deal in life to have to rely on regular medication to maintain your quality of life. Surely the least that we can do - 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.
“So that when the Brexit spotlight has moved on, people with epilepsy will be in a much better place. Epilepsy Society would be delighted to work with Mr Hancock and the pharmaceutical industry to achieve consistent and reliable drug supplies for the people we support.”
In December Jeremy Main, the independent chair of the Healthcare Distribution Association which represents pharmaceutical wholesalers, said his organisation would embark on an awareness drive to enlighten pharmacists on the reasons drug shortages occur amid concerns that “rumours” and “disinformation” were being spread through the pharmacy profession.
Main said he wanted to work with pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacists, regulatory bodies and other stakeholders to explain why shortages happen and explore potential remedies.
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