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Cough and cold meds still ‘widely available’, manufacturers’ group claims

There is no shortage in cough and cold product availability – despite reports to the contrary – a consumer healthcare group representing manufacturers has said.

The PAGB – which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications – reported today (January 9) that suppliers of cough and cold medicines are not reporting shortages.

The group’s chief executive Michelle Riddalls said OTC manufacturers were “currently meeting” the increased demand for cold and flu remedies following a “significant increase” in respiratory infections.

Read more: ‘Empty shelves’: Pharmacies flag cold and flu med supply issues as demand spikes

She continued: “Despite suggestions to the contrary…consumers continue to be able to access a variety of treatments for winter illnesses in a variety of different settings, as they are not solely reliant on obtaining products via a pharmacy, where limited incidences of shortages are being reported."

While a “smaller number of individual pharmacists may encounter sporadic [supply] issues…these are not everywhere and certainly not widespread,” she added.


“Empty shelves” in pharmacies


Last week (January 4), C+D reported that pharmacists were seeing “empty shelves” and had struggled to get hold of medicines such as Lemsip due to increased demand.

But Ms Riddalls said: “Supply to smaller independent pharmacies or shops will come via orders from wholesalers. Any possible local and limited challenges reported in acquiring medicines through this route would not be an accurate reflection of how the majority of the OTC medicines are supplied to customers.”

Large pharmacy chains and retailers “have an adequate selection of stock”, she claimed, and these are where the “vast majority of the sales of OTC medicines are made”.

But Boots told C+D last week that some of its branches may face “temporary shortages” of Lemsip following “higher than usual demand”.

Read more: Wholesalers blocked from exporting or hoarding two flu drugs as cases rise

A spokesperson told C+D that there was “still availability in many of our stores, and although there may be temporary shortages in some, there will normally be suitable alternatives available".

Meanwhile, Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich local pharmaceutical committee said that pharmacies were “sold out of all cold remedies” over the Christmas period.

And one contractor said they could not get basics such as Night Nurse and Lemsip,

Lemsip’s manufacturer Reckitt told C+D at the time that it was doing its best to "minimise disruption" to customers amid surging demand for the product.

C+D also contacted Night Nurse's manufacturer Haleon for comment but did not receive a response.


Flu and COVID-19 “twindemic”


It comes as NHS England last week warned that fears of a COVID-19 and flu “twindemic” this winter had been realised. Data released in late December revealed that cases of flu in hospital were seven times higher than November.

Ms Riddalls advised patients to talk to their pharmacist for advice about alternative products if they experienced “temporary difficulties in purchasing their preferred brand at their local pharmacy”.

She added: “Cough and cold medicines remain available at supermarkets and other retailers where people can also buy a wide range of over-the-counter medicines to treat coughs and colds.”

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