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Hours spent hunting downs meds as supply issues persist, PDA survey reveals

Over seven in 10 pharmacists are spending between one and four hours a day on sourcing medicines, a Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) survey has revealed.

Over a third (34%) of respondents said they spend between two and four hours a day chasing down stock, while 37% said they had to devote one to two hours a day to this.

Meanwhile, 8% of those surveyed said they spend more than four hours a day resolving stock shortages.

The PDA-commissioned survey of 374 pharmacists was carried out between December 22-28, when there were particular issues with antibiotic shortages after higher-than average rates of strep A infections.

But while 99.7% of respondents said common antibiotics were proving difficult to get hold of, they were not the only medicines apparently in short supply.

Read more: Strep A: Pharmacies snowed under with calls from parents ‘in a frenzy’

Almost 94% of respondents said that formulations for children, such as liquid antibiotics, were a particular problem, as demand had quickly outstripped supply after media reports warned parents and doctors to have a low threshold for concern around strep A.

Over eight in 10 (82.25%) said that sourcing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives were also problematic.

All most all respondents (97%) said patients were worried and anxious about getting their medication, and 81% said patients had taken their frustration about medicines availability out on them.


Demand outstripping supply


When asked about the potential reasons for the problems, 82% of pharmacists cited demand outstripping supply, while three quarters (75%) cited wholesaler quotas and availability.

Read more: ‘More to do’: DH to work closely with wholesalers to strengthen drug supply

Meanwhile, 72% cited manufacturer issues as a potential reason for the problems and 84% of respondents called for better management of the medicines supply chain.

A further 81% said they needed better communication and transparency from suppliers.


Dramatic increase in pharmacy visits


Three quarters (75%) of respondents had also seen a dramatic increase in patients coming to the pharmacy to seek advice this winter compared with previous years, with the public struggling to access healthcare in other parts of the system. 

In early February, pharmacists told C+D that they were still struggling to get hold of over-the-counter cold and flu medicines.

The findings come as eight SSPs that were put in place for strep A antibiotics because of supply issues have been extended to 31 March. This has been confirmed by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

They were initially due to expire at the end of February but SSPs for several doses and formulations of phenoxymethylpenicillin have been included in the extension.

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