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Wholesalers forced to cap pharmacy orders for strep A antibiotics


Wholesalers forced to cap pharmacy orders for strep A antibiotics

By Neil Trainis

Exclusive: The body that represents pharmaceutical wholesalers in the UK has said distributors have been forced to cap customers’ orders for amoxicillin and penicillin after a surge in demand that saw one big pharmacy group order a month’s supply of antibiotics in one day.

Cases of strep A among school children have increased in recent days, creating panic among worried parents and increasing the pressure on pharmacies to meet the demand. However, many pharmacies have struggled to get hold of stock.

At least nine children have died as a result of complications caused by strep A, although most infections are quite mild. Despite pharmacies’ struggles to restock antibiotics, the health secretary Steve Barclay said he was not aware of any shortages and the Government’s medical suppliers have so far not notified it of any products in short supply.

Martin Sawer [pictured], the executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association which represents pharmacy wholesalers, told Independent Community Pharmacist he agreed with Barclay’s suggestion that there is no shortage although Mr Sawer conceded "product is currently not yet in the supply chain in sufficient quantities to meet the current sudden huge demand surge."

When asked how many of his members have introduced caps on customers’ orders for antibiotics, he told ICP: "I don't know for sure - but I should think most of them by the end of tomorrow." However, he said pharmaceutical wholesalers were "working hard with their manufacturer partners to increase supply to meet this unprecedented demand." 

"Specifically, HDA believes there has been a huge and very sudden spike in demand. For example, one large pharmacy group ordered one normal month's worth of strep A-related antibiotic products in one day this week," he said.

The HDA has also urged NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care to put out "robust communications" to ensure "all players (in the supply chain) do not hoard or stockpile, on this patient-safety issue, as they did for Brexit." 

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