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77% of pharmacies experience medicines shortages due to COVID-19

COVID-19 related medicines shortages have affected 77% of pharmacy professionals and are the biggest problem businesses have faced since the outbreak, a C+D survey can reveal.

Seventy-seven per cent of the 932 pharmacy professionals who responded to the survey's question said they have experienced medicines shortages as a result of COVID-19.

The C+D survey, which ran from April 1 to May 10 and covered pharmacy teams in all four UK nations, asked respondents how their business had been affected by COVID-19, with almost eight in 10 flagging up medicines shortages as a key concern.

One respondent said that medicines shortages were “making life extremely difficult” and called for a “clearer price concession system” to mitigate against the dispensing losses they were incurring.

“Increased prescription volume and drug shortages have added to an already huge workload,” another respondent commented.

Two other respondents said trying to source alternative medicines for patients was time-consuming, and one commented that they were “continually having to contact prescribers for alternatives”. Several respondents said patients do not understand medicines shortages.

The question allowed multiple answers to be selected, with 54% of respondents highlighting a lack of protective equipment as an essential problem, 50% an absence of COVID-19 testing for staff and 48% less money from clinical services since the start of the outbreak.

Future problems

When asked about their concerns over the impact of COVID-19 on their pharmacy going forward, 85% of 962 respondents to the question said they were worried about becoming infected with the virus or passing it on to others.

Medicines shortages were the second biggest concern for the future, with 75.5% selecting it.

Other major concerns were a lack of personal protective equipment (55%), a lack of COVID-19 tests for staff (52%) having to close the business due to staff sickness (47%) and less money from clinical services (42%)

Several respondents commented about the price of medicines having risen above the drug tariff price, with one stating that an issue is “huge increases in generic prices”, for which pharmacies “will not be compensated”.

One respondent gave the example of sertraline tablets and explained that “low supply and high demand” of some “key medicines”, such as sertraline 50mg and 100mg has caused an overinflation of prices. A different person described sertraline as “extortionate”.

How are medicines shortages affecting your pharmacy?

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