Pill paucity prompts parliamentary probe

23 November 2011

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23 November 2011 | Angeline Albert

A medicine shortage has prompted MPs to launch a major inquiry into why potentially life-saving prescription drugs are difficult to source.

The cross-party politicians that make up the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) is urging pharmacists, who source NHS prescription medicine, and those in the medicine supply chain to submit their views on the reasons for the poor supply situation.

The APPG said finding enough NHS prescription medication is “a daily challenge for pharmacists up and down the country”, who are spending too much time looking for medicines.

Pharmacists purchase prescription medicines on behalf of the NHS and are reimbursed for the cost. The responses of around 400 pharmacists working for LloydsPharmacy in a report published earlier this month highlighted the difficulties sourcing many medicines including those used to treat serious conditions such as depression, diabetes and respiratory disease.

Labour MP Kevin Barron, chairman of the APPG, said: “This has been a problem for far too long and as far as we can see, the situation is not improving. The best interests of patients are being put at risk if medicines are not available when they are needed, and pharmacists are spending inordinate amounts of time trying to source medicines that are in short supply.”

The selling of prescription drugs intended for the NHS abroad for a higher price than would be received in the UK has not been ruled out as an area of investigation by the APPG.

“The group has an open mind about the causes of shortages; it is keen to hear the views of respondents on this, and on possible solutions. However, it is aware that there are several factors that contribute to shortages, rather than just one,” said an APPG spokesman.

The APPG is inviting interested parties to give their views by 23 December. To do so, email appg@luther.co.uk

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