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DH issues five further serious shortage protocols for penicillin

Pharmacists can now supply alternative penicillin medicines under eight different serious shortage protocols (SSPs), after the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) issued an additional five.

It comes as higher than normal cases of strep A and scarlet fever have led to increased demand for penicillin from patients.

The government issued a first set of SSPs for penicillin on Thursday last week (December 15), but it published a further five protocols relating to penicillin supply soon after on Friday evening.

This has extended the alternative antibiotics or formulations that pharmacists can provide if they cannot fulfil the patient’s specific prescription for:

  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5ml oral solution
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5ml oral solution sugar free
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution sugar free
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg tablets

This is in addition to the three SSPs issues on Thursday, covering:

  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution sugar free
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5ml oral solution
  • Phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5ml oral solution sugar free
All eight SSPs are due to expire on 31 January 2023.
 

Read more: Strep A: Serious Shortage Protocols issued for three penicillin medicines

“The increased demand means that some pharmacists are experiencing temporary and localised supply issues and may not have the specific formulation listed on the prescription,” the DH said.

Last week, pharmacy bodies called on the government to amend legislation to allow pharmacists to amend prescriptions without the need for SSPs, with Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) chair Thorrun Govind describing the protocols as “bureaucratic and inflexible”.

 

”Significant ongoing disruption”

 

Notifying contractors about the five new SSPs, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it comes amid “significant ongoing disruption affecting supply”

It advised pharmacists to “consider if a suitable supply can be made by using an alternative formulation of Phenoxymethylpenicillin in accordance with relevant SSP” before supplying patients with alternative antibiotics.

“Where that is not possible, only specified antibiotics can be substituted for prescriptions for duration of no longer than 10 days,” it added.

It also urged pharmacy teams to read the NHS Business Health Authority’s (NHS BSA) guidance about the SSPs in full.

Meanwhile, Ms Govind today said that antibiotics medicine prices have increased “from £2 to £11 plus” as demand has soared, leading pharmacists unsure about whether they would be reimbursed for the price of the drugs.

“The government needs to look into this seriously and support pharmacies,” she told BBC Radio.

“Someone’s making some money somewhere but we’re on the ground frustrated and undervalued as pharmacists,” Ms Govind added.

“The pain has been for the patients and for the pharmacists,” she said.

Last week, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is “working to establish” whether companies charged “excessive prices” or colluded over antibiotics used to treat strep A in the UK.

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