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COVID-19: Pharmacies report difficulty in sourcing paracetamol

The DH told C+D there is no shortage of the drug, which it has "stockpiles" of
The DH told C+D there is no shortage of the drug, which it has "stockpiles" of

Pharmacies have reported difficulty in getting hold of paracetamol in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, although the DH has said there is no shortage of the drug.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said it is “well prepared to deal with any impacts of the coronavirus” and has “stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues or increases in demand”.

However, C+D readers have reported difficulties in sourcing packs of the drug.

North East London Local Pharmaceutical Committee secretary Hemant Patel told C+D that pharmacies were struggling to source smaller packs of paracetamol, and asking for advice on whether they could instead break up packs of 100 into smaller amounts.

An anonymous contractor in Scotland said they had managed to get hold of packs of 100 paracetamol tablets, but could not find smaller packs.

Contractor Olivier Picard told C+D that his business had sold 200 paracetamol packets in just a day-and-a-half and had run out of packets of paracetamol that did not require a prescription.

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) confirmed that there is “plenty of paracetamol in the supply chain” but highlighted that the demand for it has increased.

Unlike over-the-counter medicines, much paracetamol “is not price controlled” and therefore the cost has increased, he said.

Traders must not “exploit the current situation”

When C+D put the reported price increase of paracetamol to the DH, it responded with a statement by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) issued on March 5.

The CMA “wants to ensure that traders do not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people”, the statement said.

It will “consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law”, such as “charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment”.

Due to COVID-19, workers across UK pharmacy are under great pressure right now. If you would like to find out how you can help, take a look at current vacancies in and around your location. All levels of pharmacy professionals are needed.

How much has demand for paracetamol increased in your pharmacy?

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

I am a pharmacist (and yes we have run out of counter packs of paracetamol) and I also own a Post Office. We haven't stock piled in the Post Office but we have restricted purchases to one per person. People just don't seem to consider that we have them hence still having some in stock!

David Kent, Community pharmacist

My local grocery shops have plenty!

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

"""The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said it has “stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues or increases in demand”.

May be this is the reason for all the shortages, STOCKPILING by DHSC. Please release these stocks.

This is the best time to bring in legislation to stop selling Paracetamol/ Ibuprofen or any other formulations (Lemsip etc) containing these ingredients, from being sold through the corner shops and the likes of Poundland.

Make them available only through the Pharmacies and we will make sure we sell them sensibly and at quantities that are actually needed by the patients and not for stockpiling/ misuse.

Hope the Govt and DHSC/ NHSE learn a great lesson from this.

Last 2 weeks anyone who walks through a Pharmacy door has 2 questions -- 1. Do you have any hand gel? 2. Do you have any Paracetamol?

People are travelling great distances to get hold of this, ignoring the advice to stay at home and putting many others' lives at risk. It is unbelievable that one of the most common and cheapest drugs is now in demand as if it were some lost gem!!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Welcome to the power of mass hysteria, and the effect it can have on communities. With the virus set to be in play for the long-term, will these shortages continue throughout?

Stephanie Burns, Community pharmacist

I was informed by a customer when she was told that on TV this morning they said we could split the prescription packs and sell them.

How can we spare dispensers to put paracetamol into smaller boxes with all the labels and PIL's when patients are ordering their prescriptions early. Where I am working as a relief pharmacist this week, there has been such an increase in counter sales that the dispensing work has suffered. We are now 5 days behind.

How are we going to cope when staff are going to start to self isolate?


Leon The Apothecary, Student

Patients will need to accept realistic time expectations. Things will take longer to do. We in pharmacy need to accept that we can't do things at lightning speeds and make reasonable time frames the standard practice.

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