Norfolk pharmacists 'at their wits' end' over medication supply shortage
Pharmacists in Norfolk are "at their wits' end" as they struggle to get hold of many common medicines, including painkillers and anti-depressants.
A national shortage of some medicines meant patients were being sent away without their full supply, or even being asked to go back to their doctors to ask for alternative drugs.
Tony Dean, chief officer at the Norfolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), said: “It’s a national problem and it is a very real and increasing problem.”
There are now 80 medications so short in supply that the Department of Health has agreed to pay a premium for - up from 45 in October.
And Mr Dean said the main problem was the NHS had driven down the prices it will pay for drugs, which makes the UK less attractive to manufacturers.
He said: “So for patients they are being protected the best we possibly can because pharmacists are spending lots of extra time going round to different manufacturers. But increasingly some of the more common medicines are in short supply.”
Some of the drugs affected are fluoxetine, an anti-depressant, and naprozen, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Mr Dean said: “Pharmacists are saying they’ve not got it all so are asking patients to come back for the rest, or in the extreme case having to go back to the GP and maybe get a different brand, a different tablet, or different multiples. Or in very extreme cases a different drug.
“It’s being done every moment of every day.”
Mr Dean said there were many reasons for the shortage, including increased demand, and the cost of raw materials.
And while he was cautious not the blame Brexit, he said it could have an impact as people prepare for what might happen after March 29.
The government has told manufacturers of both branded and generic drugs to stockpile six weeks’ worth of supplies, so that people would still get their medications in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
But hospitals, distributors and patients have been told not to stockpile their own supplies.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have not seen any evidence of current medicine supply issues linked to EU exit preparations.”
Mr Dean added: “We will not allow patients to be harmed.”