Indira Panchal, who owns four pharmacies in Bedford, told C+D this week (January 22) that she has experienced shortages of naproxen.
The supply problems have sparked an increase in the price of these medicines that is “killing us”, she explained.
“At the moment, with naproxen we get reimbursed £4.16 and we’re getting it [from wholesalers] for £22,” she said.
“People are wanting those medicines and I can’t get hold of them. You’re having to turn prescriptions away.”
Hours after Ms Panchal spoke to C+D, packs of 56 naproxen 500mg gastro-resistant tablets were granted a concessionary price of £18.01, leading contractors to call for the reimbursement price of other strengths of the drug to be reviewed.
“Staff are constantly on the phone”
Olutayo Arikawe, superintendent pharmacist at The Priory Pharmacy in Dudley, said she has struggled to source naproxen, furosemide and Adalat in recent weeks, which is costing her time and money.
“The staff are constantly on the phone trying to find products,” she said.
“Sometimes you simply can’t get anything. Sometimes you end up changing the medicine with the GP and by the time you call back to order it they have [the original medicine] again.”
Mike Hewitson, owner of Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset, said: “The problem is that medicines are available, but at silly prices.” He has had issues with “all the sartans” – including candesartan, valsartan and irbesartan – as well as naproxen.
The shortages had an effect “a bit like dominos: one falls over, so the demand moves to another medicine,” he said. “Then there’s not enough supply to meet that demand and [that medicine supply] falls over too.”
Mr Hewitson has seen ondansetron increase in price from “£1-something up to £18-odd a pack” overnight, he added.
Shortages “getting worse”
Sid Dajani, owner of Wainwrights Chemist in Hampshire and a Royal Pharmaceutical Society English pharmacy board member, agreed the shortages “have been getting worse”.
He listed 16 medicines that were in short supply at his pharmacy, including naproxen, Adalat, Cardura and Elleste Duet.
“When there’s a rumour that something might be in short supply, some people start stockpiling it, then the price naturally goes up,” he added.
“Of course, independents are first in line to get stuck for it, because we don’t stockpile as much as the multiples do. We’re constantly ringing around.”
Pharmacists “doing their best”
Mike Keen, CEO of Kent local pharmaceutical committee, said he had heard “a lot” of reports of shortages from contractors over the past year.
The supply chain is under pressure from “short-line wholesalers and suppliers, coupled with some clinical commissioning groups extending periods of treatment”, he claimed.
Pharmacists are “doing their best to look after their patients and often having to dispense at a loss”, he said.
C+D reported on Monday (January 21) that pharmacists may be able to dispense an alternative in the case of “serious” medicines shortages – if the government announces a shortages “protocol” for that specific drug – from February 9.
*This article was updated after publication to clarify the medicines that pharmacies are struggling to source