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Pharmacy minister faces mounting concerns over epilepsy drug shortage

Seema Kennedy: There is enough Sabril nationally
Seema Kennedy: There is enough Sabril nationally

The government will “express its concerns” to suppliers of epilepsy drug Sabril a second time in relation to ongoing regional shortages, the pharmacy minister has said.

Seema Kennedy was responding to a parliamentary question from Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston Justin Madders on Tuesday (May 7), who said his constituents continued to have “real concerns” about the availability of the drug.

The minister “told me last month supplies will be resolved by mid-April”, Mr Madders reminded her. “She has now told me in a written answer that supplies will be resolved in mid-May.”

“It seems there is a disconnect between what the minister is saying and what is actually happening on the ground,” he added. “When can she guarantee this drug will be widely available again?”

Pharmacy minister Ms Kennedy responded that the government had already “expressed our great concern to the suppliers about this problem, and we are working alongside them to ensure that, although there is enough Sabril nationally, we get it in the right place at the right time”.

“We will go back to them and express our concern again,” she added.

C+D has contacted Sabril manufacturer Sanofi for more details about the apparent shortages.

“Turning a blind eye to shortages”

In the same session, Labour MP for Burnley Julie Cooper criticised the government for “consistently turning a blind eye” to medicines shortages, and claimed “close to 100 commonly prescribed medications are in seriously short supply”.

“Can the minister assure me today that she understands the scale of the problem and outline the steps she is taking to resolve it?”

In response, Ms Kennedy said the Department of Health and Social Care “takes this extremely seriously” and has a “whole team working on it”.

“There about 12,500 prescribed medicines in this country, with only between 50 and 100 being looked at by the medicines supply team at any one time,” she added.

Which medicines are you experiencing a shortage of?

Arun Tanna, Community pharmacist

Epilim Chrono 500mgm has not been available for over 2 months.The price of Metformin has Quadrupled overnight and all the wholesalers have increased their prices, there is definitely market manipulation here,as there are at least 5 manufactures of Metformin. 


Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

The article in C and D a couple of weeks ago mentioned that 177 are in seriously short supply so it's not good enough that only between 50 and 100 are being looked at at any one time!  I am fed up with spending hours contacting manufacturers to try to find out what is happening!  My favourite response so far has been that "demand is exceeding supply" - really?

I am also fed up with being called incompetant by angry customers because  "I am not managing my stock of medicines more efficiently".  Quite frankly I have had enough!

Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

But as it's not cannabis, then the population will not get to hear of it - except for those affected by it.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

There are probably thousands of pallets lyiing idle in warehouses at the command of manufacturers for price manipulation ready to be shipped out when the profit is greatest.

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

What about Epilim Crono?

“There about 12,500 prescribed medicines in this country, with only between 50 and 100 being looked at by the medicines supply team at any one time,” she added.

This may be true, but the 50 - 100 are popular drugs, most of the 12500 are never used, SPIN SPIN SPIN

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