Daily Mail

HRT and vital heart drugs facing record shortages in NHS

- By Kate Pickles Health Editor

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’

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