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Strep A: Pharmacists warn of amoxicillin shortages as infections rocket

The Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) has said pharmacies are running out of amoxicillin, as the UK faces mounting cases of strep A infections.

Its CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today (December 5) that independent pharmacies across the country have reported struggling to get hold of the antibiotic, which is used to treat invasive group A strep.

“This is yet another concerning example of a popular medicine going on short supply, at a time when there is a higher risk for infections in children,” she said.

Read more: ‘Worse than ever’: Which medicines are pharmacists struggling to stock?

The UK Health Security Agency last week (Dec 2) reported that scarlet fever incidences are higher than expected for this time of year and that there has been an increase in invasive group A strep cases, particularly in children under 10. Seven children diagnosed with strep A have died this year.

Pharmacists are “spending hours on the phones trying to get hold of medicines [such as amoxicillin] and desperately trying to help our patients, unfortunately being told there is no supply,” Dr Hannbeck said.

 

AIMp approached DH on “numerous occasions”

 

Dr Hannbeck claimed AIMp had approached the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) “on numerous” occasions to suggest setting up “a roundtable with all parties involved in the supply chain”.

The roundtable would discuss “supply challenges, identify the issues [and] suggest solutions with a view to plan and be better prepared,” Dr Hannbeck explained.

Read more: 'We cannot subsidise NHS medicines bill': PSNC ramps up pressure on government

“Why is this not happening?” she asked. “What does it take before someone listens?”

C+D has approached the DH for comment.

 

Pharmacies report amoxicillin demand rise

 

Some pharmacies C+D approached reported having an adequate, if low, stock of amoxicillin.

Although pharmacy manager at Heath Pharmacy Amanda Smith told C+D maintaining this has “not been easy”.

“We have been having to shop around to find amoxicillin suspension in stock as supplies have been very limited,” she said.

“We’ve managed not to turn anyone away just yet,” Ms Smith added.

Demand for amoxicillin is “always high”, she explained. But the pharmacy has dispensed prescriptions from patients who have “been unable to find these items in stock at their usual pharmacies”, she explained.

This was echoed by pharmacist Chris Armstrong, who said he had seen “some patients coming in who have been unable to source amoxicillin suspension elsewhere”.

Director of operations at Weldricks Pharmacy David Vanns told C+D that the group had avoided running out of amoxicillin by doing “some strategic planning on supply chain issues”.

However, he noted that the amount of amoxicillin prescriptions at Weldricks rose by 18% October compared to the same period in 2021. Similarly, the drug was prescribed 9% more often in November 2022 compared to the same period last year.

“Suspension usage has increased by up to 20%” since last year," he added.

Meanwhile, pharmacy contractor at Tynewydd Pharmacy Gareth Hughes told C+D he “managed to order some Amoxicillin 250mg/5ml this morning” after tweeting yesterday that he was struggling to get hold of the drug.

Prior to this, Mr Hughes had been forced to “borrow some from a nearby pharmacy for this morning,” he added.

 

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