HRT and vital heart drugs facing record shortages in NHS
RECORD drug shortages could see patients struggle to get hormone replacement therapy, contraceptives and heart pills, industry leaders warn.
The British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) said a row over payments could affect a raft of common drugs. The trade body, which represents manufacturers and suppliers, said some 111 medicines – ranging from antibiotics to epilepsy medication – face supply issues.
This is the highest level on record and more than double the number of drugs facing shortages at the start of last year. The BGMA blames an NHS drugs levy, saying the soaring tax is discouraging pharmaceutical companies from supplying medicines to the UK. Instead, they are increasingly taking their finite supply elsewhere – often leaving pharmacists scrambling for alternatives.
Designed to stop the NHS from being overcharged, drug manufacturers are taxed if the health service’s branded drugs bill increases by more than 2 per cent a year.
Under the Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS) agreement, taxes paid by manufacturers depend on the NHS’s medicines bill. Two years ago, the rate was 5.1 per cent but this year it has soared to 26.5 per cent, which the BGMA says is making the UK unattractive for firms.
Chief executive Mark Samuels said: ‘Supply issues for generic medicines are on the rise and patients are sadly being impacted as they represent four out of five NHS prescriptions.
‘This is not about making less profit but actually making losses as a direct result of VPAS.’
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, head of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said community pharmacists are reporting that one in ten medicines are in short supply.
She said: ‘ This has reached crisis proportions and is having a knockon effect across the sector.
‘They’re having to spend many hours trying to source medicines for patients. This is on top of running a pharmacy during these tough times, when many are shutting their doors for good due to underfunding.’
Shortages of HRT medicines have been an issue for some time and have been highlighted by the Mail’s Fix the HRT Crisis campaign.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We have seen no convincing evidence of higher payment percentages leading to supply issues, given available mitigations.’
‘1 in 10 medicines in short supply’