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Over 100 medicines are currently in short supply, warns BGMA

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Reducing disruptions to the movement of medicines around the world is “absolutely critical” for maintaining supply resilience in the UK, ABPI has suggested.  

The British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) on Monday alerted the Health and Social Care Committee that medicines shortages have increased and are “around double what they were a year ago.”

BGMA chief executive Mark Samuels told the committee that they have been highlighting the medicine shortage risk to ministers since July 2021 and the association is “very concerned” about the current situation.

“We’ve been monitoring it for several years now, and as you saw in the written evidence, shortages have increased. They’re around double what they were a year ago. We have them at 101 shortages in February this year,” said Samuels.

Dr Rick Greville, director of distribution and supply at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), highlighted that the problem of drug shortages in the UK is a “long-standing issue” and the scarcity of certain medications “continues to be challenging”.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies – AIMp, also raised concerns that community pharmacists in the UK are experiencing a “record number of medicines shortages,” and they spend long hours in the day trying to source medicines for patients.

She added that pharmacy teams see firsthand the anxiety and stress experienced by patients due to  medicine shortages.

Navin Khosla, Pharmacist at NowPatient, indicated that Brexit is mainly responsible for the drug shortage issue in the UK, citing reports from several news outlets.

Concerns were also raised about the potential harm of medication shortages in people with diabetes.

Last month, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published a National Patient Safety Alert concerning the shortage of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs), which are used to manage blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

As per the alert, the supply of the drugs was not expected to return to normal “until at least the end of 2024”.

Helen Kirrane, head of policy, campaigns and mobilisation at Diabetes UK, informed the committee that the shortage of GLP-1 has significantly affected individuals with type 2 diabetes in the past six to eight months.

She expressed that the serious consequences often only become apparent over time, and there is  “serious concern about the harm that could be caused”.

Kirrane added that GLP-1 shortages have resulted in a “huge explosion of interest in this type of medication for weight loss globally over the last year or so” and the charity has seen a “huge surge” in off-label prescribing in the private sector.

To solve the drug shortage issue, Samuels suggested that staff at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency should be retained, as there is a “huge backlog” in the licensing of generic medicines.

Pharmacists should be empowered to make substitutions for alternative appropriate medication or formularies, suggested Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE).

According to Dr Greville, reducing disruptions to the movement of medicines around the world is “absolutely critical” for maintaining supply resilience in the UK.

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