Charity calls for commission to review drug supply chains

9 April 2019

The Epilepsy Society has called on health secretary Matt Hancock to commission a review to tackle underlying issues with medicine supply chains affecting people with epilepsy and other long-term health conditions.

The charity said it had seen a sharp increase in the number of people struggling to get hold of medication to keep seizures under control and the “anxiety and stress” caused by medicine shortages put people at greater risk of seizures.

Concerns have been raised over the availability of medication due to uncertainty over Brexit, but problems within drug supply chains have been the main issue for essential medication shortages "for decades", the charity said.

Clare Pelham, chief executive of the Epilepsy Society, said: “It is simply not good enough for drugs manufacturers to say 'production issues' or 'just-in-time manufacture problems' and shrug their shoulders whenever a shortage occurs.

“Without a consistent supply, a breakthrough seizure can occur meaning that a person with epilepsy may lose their licence, lose their job and lose their quality of life,” she said.

She added: “Surely the least that we can do – government, charities and the pharmaceutical industry – is to work together to ensure that the supply of this essential medication is reliable every day, every week, and every month, year in and year out.  So that when the Brexit spotlight has moved on, people with epilepsy will be in a much better place.”

Last week, medicine manufacturer Sanofi said stock levels of valproate – a medicine used to treat epilepsy – were lower than usual due to disruption in production in the summer of 2018. 

Sanofi said: “This disruption was temporary and our overall stock levels are improving every week. This temporary disruption is not related to Brexit.”

Ley Sander, medical director at the Epilepsy Society, said: “Fundamental to dealing with this issue is the need for transparent and honest communication. It is vital that clinicians have the most up-to-date information around any supply issues so that we can discuss these with our patients and forge a plan together.”

Earlier this year, Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health how the price for a month’s supply of an anti inflammatory drug had increased from 80p to £6.49, due to suppy issues caused by laboratory closures and growing demand for drugs in developing countries.

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