In a recent article Libby Parfitt highlighted what a no deal Brexit could mean for chronic pain patients in terms of the availability of medication.
Now, the results of a survey of 586 GPs has been published in GP Online. This reveals that as a result of shortages in the last year over half of them have been forced to prescribe second choice medicines. Clearly, not all of this was the result of stockpiling over Brexit, but respondents were clearly concerned how a system already rife with shortages would cope in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.
One respondent said that the current situation could have a “devastating effect on patients’ health”; another that “shortages do affect patient management tremendously as second line medications are not always ideal and in rare cases not as effective.”
A particular problem has been identified for anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, naproxen and high-strength aspirin, in respect of which “patients are having to take stronger or unequal doses which is causing harm.”
Back in January, Gareth Jones from the National Pharmacy Association, told the BBC that while patients were not panicking, “unconscious stockpiling” along the supply chain appeared to be a “significant factor“.
Last month the Government passed legislation enacting “serious shortage protocols”. In the event that supplies run out, these protocols allow pharmacists to dispense an alternative “quantity, strength [or] pharmaceutical form” as well as a “therapeutic equivalent or a generic equivalent” of medicines that are in serious short supply “without going back to the prescriber”.
No hard evidence
However, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“There is no hard evidence to date to suggest current medicine supply issues are increasing as a result of EU exit.
“Our number one priority is to ensure the continued supply of medicines and we are working closely with industry and partners in the health system to help prevent disruption, including increasing UK buffer stocks. We are confident that, if everyone does what they need to do, the supply of medicines should be uninterrupted in the event of a no deal.
“We have well-established processes to manage and mitigate the small number of supply problems that may arise at any one time due to manufacturing or distribution issues and this has always been the case – every day over 2m prescription items are successfully dispensed in England.”