APPG writes to pharmacy minister about shortages

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APPG writes to pharmacy minister about shortages

The All-Party Pharmacy Group has written to the pharmacy minister to call for action to reduce the patient harm caused by medicines shortages.

The call to action is in response to a survey the Group conducted earlier this year among pharmacists, GPs and CCGs in the north-east of England. The letter, dated June 9, from APPG chairman Sir Kevin Barron to Alistair Burt, Minister of State for Community and Social Care, highlighted the effect of ongoing shortages on patients. "They cause inconvenience, stress and, on occasion, physical harm to patients," it said. "They cause disruption for health professionals and support staff, meaning that valuable NHS time is wasted on a regular and continuing basis."

Almost half of community pharmacists surveyed reported that medicines shortages had in the past six months caused patients to receive "moderate medical treatment". In cases where pharmacies were unable to dispense prescribed medicine, 3 per cent reported that this may have or did lead to the patient being hospitalised.

GP practices reported that in the past six months, 36 per cent of cases where a medicine could not be prescribed led to “moderate medical treatment” for patients.

Of the community pharmacists surveyed, 56 per cent reported a medicine out of stock on a prescription presented at their pharmacy was “almost certain to occur” once a day over the previous six months, while 36 per cent said it was “likely to occur” once a week.

Almost half of community pharmacists reported spending between 21 and 50 hours a month dealing with medicines shortages, while 5 per cent were spending over 100 hours.

In the letter, Sir Kevin said: "We appreciate that the reasons for shortages are sometimes complex and have an international dimension. Some shortages are impossible to prevent, but others may not be. Either way, good preparation and early warning would, in our view, help to minimise the impact."

Sir Kevin suggested that the best action would be for the Department of Health, NHS England and the MHRA to work together to establish a system that accurately monitored medicines entering the supply chain, detected the shortage risks and helped supply chain participants alleviate the impact of shortages where they do occur.

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