This site is intended for Healthcare Professionals only.

SSPs reactivated for clarithromycin amid surging whooping cough cases


Share post:

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed 2,793 cases of whooping in the first quarter of 2024, including five infant deaths

As whooping cough cases rise sharply across the UK, the NHS has reactivated the serious shortage protocols (SSPs) for clarithromycin – a commonly prescribed antibiotic to treat this bacterial infection.

Pharmacy bodies had recently warned that community pharmacies were struggling to obtain source clarithromycin for patients.

Two SSPs, covering clarithromycin 125mg/5mL and 250mg/5mL oral suspensions, were reactivated on 22 May 2024, and extended until 21 June 2024.

These protocols state that for every 5mL of clarithromycin 125mg/5mL oral suspension, pharmacy contractors must supply 2.5mL of clarithromycin 250mg/5mL oral suspension; and for every 5mL of clarithromycin 250mg/5mL oral suspension, one clarithromycin 250mg tablet must be supplied.

The SSPs apply to cross-border prescriptions, both NHS and private.

Patients from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland who present their prescriptions for clarithromycin 125mg/5mL and 250mg/5mL oral suspensions are eligible to receive their substituted products under the terms of these SSPs.

If the pharmacist determines that the patient is unable to accommodate the switch from liquid to tablet (i.e. the patient cannot swallow tablets), they are advised to either contact the prescriber to discuss the issue (with the patient’s consent) or refer the patient back to the prescriber.

Can pharmacists supply an alternative product to patients? “If the pharmacist thinks that an alternative product, other than those listed within the SSP would be suitable for the patient, they should either contact the prescriber to discuss this (with the patient’s consent) or direct the patient back to the prescriber,” the NHS guidance said.

An SSP may be issued if the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) decides there is a serious shortage of a specific medicine or appliance.

When the SSPs for clarithromycin were first introduced in April 2023, they were originally intended to run for less than a month but were extended until December 2023.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported a total of 2,793 whooping cough cases in the first quarter of 2024 (January – March), comprising 556 cases in January, 918 in February, and 1,319 in March.

Sadly, there have been five infant deaths attributed to this lung-affecting bacterial infection this year so far.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Current Issue June 2024

Related articles

ABPI: Increased pharma exports could boost GDP by £16.3 billion

ABPI urges political leaders to enhance healthcare and economic growth through strategic partnership The Association of the British Pharmaceutical...

The Importance Of Expanding Access To Dental Care For Rural And Undeserved Populations

In many rural areas and underserved neighborhoods, a critical issue is quietly emerging. Although often overlooked, its effects...

BGMA: More than 50% of UK generics face shortages without licensed alternatives

Brexit blamed by BGMA CE, Mark Samuels, as UK faces critical shortages in generic drug supply A recent report...

Paul Burden elected BGMA Vice-Chair, bringing 25 years of industry leadership

Veteran of off-patent sector to drive strategic engagement and patient access initiatives at BGMA The British Generic Manufacturers Association...