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Strep A: David Webb warns pharmacies may face ‘temporary supply interruption’

England’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (CPhO) David Webb has warned pharmacy teams that they may face “a temporary interruption of supply” of “some relevant” antibiotics amid growing strep A concerns.

But on a “national level, sufficient stock exists for the NHS”, Mr Webb wrote in a letter addressed to community pharmacists, chief hospital pharmacists and regional pharmacy chiefs yesterday (December 8).

NHS England is “working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH)”, he added, “and has taken actions to help ensure medicines continue to be available”.

The medicines supply team at the DH has also been working with manufacturers and wholesalers “to assess the supply situation” he said.

Read more: Strep A: Children can take oral solid form antibiotics amid demand surge

It follows concerns about mounting cases of strep A infections in children, with pharmacists flagging difficulties in getting hold of amoxicillin and penicillin in particular.

At least 15 children in the UK are known to have died from strep A infections this year.

“High levels of demand are currently being observed in many NHS services due to concerns over Group A Streptococcus (GAS), although thankfully numbers of invasive GAS infections remain low,” Mr Webb wrote.


Pharmacy deliveries “expected in the coming days”


Supplies of antibiotics for the treatment of strep A “may be in limited supply at certain wholesalers and pharmacies, particularly phenoxymethylpenicillin presentations”, Mr Webb acknowledged.

However, supplies are currently “readily available with manufacturers”, he added.

Deliveries to wholesalers and pharmacies “are being expedited and are expected in the coming days”, he explained.

Read more: Strep A: No antibiotics shortage, just ‘huge’ surge in demand, say wholesalers

Where antibiotics are required for the treatment of a suspected strep A infection, pharmacy teams should “work together to understand availability of antibiotics locally”, he advised.

Teams should also order stocks of antibiotics “sensibly in line with patient demand” avoiding “excessive quantities”, to ensure additional pressure is not added to the supply chain, Mr Webb added.

Pharmacies may also “find it helpful to display [new NHS guidance] prominently on site and online for individuals seeking advice”, he said.


APPG chair urges government action


It comes as recently appointed all-party pharmacy group (APPG) chair Taiwo Owatemi wrote to health secretary Steve Barclay yesterday (December 8) citing concerns over “the inaccurate statement” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made to the House of Commons regarding drug shortages nationally.

In a statement on Wednesday (December 7) during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sunak told MPs “there are no current shortages of drugs available to treat this”.

Mr Barclay also insisted that there was a “good supply” of penicillin.

The DH told C+D earlier this week (December 5) that it did not know of any supply issues affecting amoxicillin.

In her letter, Ms Owatemi urged Mr Barclay to “explain this discrepancy between what leading experts have told the government and the Prime Minister’s own choice of words”.

She also asked whether he could assure that “lessons have been learnt” following previous shortages, “to ensure that this is not repeated yet again”.

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