Pharmacies can expect their deliveries to be delayed by up to three weeks “from date of order”, manufacturer Abbott said in an update published by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) on Wednesday (January 8).
“We are doing all we can to expedite shipments in an effort to minimise any interruptions and are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause," Abbott said. The company added that pharmacies “will receive an email with a tracking number when the product is dispatched”.
PSNC advised pharmacists to refer any affected patients back to their prescriber, to allow them to adopt alternative glucose monitoring methods in the meantime.
The FreeStyle Libre sensors can only be purchased directly from Abbott, the manufacturer said in a document with frequently asked questions for pharmacists.
Knights Pharmacy superintendent Pete Horrocks told C+D earlier this week that he has been experiencing delays “since before Christmas and that the [Abbott] customer service team cannot guarantee availability of stock”.
"Many of our customers have been transferred over to the new Libra sensor but with the recent ‘shipping’ issues, our pharmacy teams have had to coordinate with prescribers and diabetes nurses to arrange for alternative meters and blood testing strips for our patients," Mr Horrocks said.
"In many instances, pharmacy teams receive the brunt of patients’ frustrations," he added.
Chris Bland, area manager at Kamsons Pharmacy, told C+D yesterday (January 9) that the chain's patients have also been affected by the delays in delivery.
"I must have spent three hours yesterday ringing hospitals, colleagues and Abbott to try and get stock," he said.
Abbott still allows pharmacists to place orders for the sensors, despite the current supply delays, Mr Bland claimed.
"The silver lining is, I got an email this morning saying I should be receiving some stock shortly. Let's wait and see."
The FreeStyle Libre sensor was added to the NHS drug tariff in 2017. From April 2019, NHS England pledged to fund access to the device for people with type 1 diabetes.
Abbott states that “in the vast majority of cases, stock will be delivered within 24 hours to the pharmacy, or the pharmacy counter within a store”.
The FreeStyle Optium test strips, which are compatible with the FreeStyle Libre system, are in stock and pharmacists can order them via their usual wholesaler, Abbott told C+D.