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Nearly half of British adults are struggling to get prescription medicines due to shortages

Nearly half of adults in Britain are struggling to get their prescribed medicines – and more people are blaming Brexit than anything else for the situation, new research shows.

Forty-nine percent of people said they have had trouble getting a prescription in the past two years, a time when supply problems have increased sharply.

Medicine shortages are now so severe that one in 12 Britons could not find the medicines they needed, despite checking with a number of pharmacies.

The survey of 2,028 people representative of the population, conducted by Opinium for the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), found that:

  • One in twelve people (8%) has not used any medication at all because it was impossible to obtain it.

  • Thirty-one percent discovered that the medicine they needed was out of stock at their pharmacy.

  • Twenty-three percent of pharmacies did not have sufficient medicines.

When asked why shortages are now so common, more issues were cited with Britain leaving the EU (36%) than inflation (33%) or global conflict and instability (26%).

“Shortages are of great concern to the physical health of patients, in addition to the stress of not knowing whether an essential medicine will be available,” said Mark Samuels, the CEO of the BGMA, which represents companies that produce generic – or non-proprietary – medicines. . medicines, which make up 80% of all medicines used by the NHS in the UK.

“Several factors contribute to the problem and the Brexit agreement is certainly one of them,” said Samuels.

“For example, medicines made here cannot be exported to Europe, but medicines made on the continent can be brought here. This does not provide any incentive to increase production capacity in Britain, an option that could help meet shortages.”

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The number of medicines in short supply has increased dramatically since the beginning of 2022. In January 2022 there were 52 such products, but this month that number has reached 100. These include HRT, antibiotics and antidepressants, as well as medicines for ADHD, epilepsy, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Last October there were a record number of medicines in shortage – 111 – the BGMA added, citing figures collected by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). With drug supply problems becoming a global phenomenon, some UK shortages will not end until next year.

In the past month alone, the NHS Business Services Authority has issued four ‘severe shortage protocols’. Two of these involve clarithromycin, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia, cellulitis and ear infections.

Of the 87 generic drugs that are difficult or impossible to find, 34 have been in short supply for more than six months and 23 have been in short supply for more than a year.

Samuels said recent governments have contributed to the problem by “showing complacency around the off-patent medicines industry, despite it supplying four out of five NHS prescription medicines”.

“The next government needs a targeted plan to encourage businesses to continue to see Britain as a supply priority,” he added, “or the shortage situation will not improve.”

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