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Charities urge health secretary to urgently review medicines supply chain

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Charities urge health secretary to urgently review medicines supply chain

The health secretary Victoria Atkins has come under pressure from four major charities to carry out an urgent review of the medicines supply chain as people across the UK struggle to access life-saving medicines.

The Epilepsy Society, Epilepsy Action, SUDEP Action and Parkinson’s UK wrote to Atkins this week with a stark warning that the number of drug shortages reported by pharmaceutical companies has doubled in the last three years and price concessions have “risen sharply.”

They also warned the UK's ability to respond to shortages “has been severely weakened by its split from the EU.” The charities said they had been “inundated with calls” from patients suffering from epilepsy and Parkinson's disease who were struggling to find pharmacies to fulfil their prescriptions.

“People are being forced to travel miles and visit multiple pharmacies before they are able to access their medication,” they said, calling for “clarity and a guarantee that pharmacists will be able to dispense the medications people with long-term health conditions need.”

The charities urged Atkins to meet them “to discuss long-term solutions to address the issue of medicines supply.” A report by Nuffield Trust this month warned “constantly elevated” shortages of medicines in the UK had become the “new normal.”

In their letter to Atkins, the charities refer to their survey of nearly 1,500 people which revealed 70 per cent have had difficulties getting vital medication over the past year, 22 per cent reported problems in the last month and 55 per cent had to visit multiple pharmacies before getting hold of their medication.

The survey also showed 66 per cent were only given a fraction of the amount on their prescription until more supplies were available, 40 per cent said their symptoms worsened because of the stress of trying to get their prescription filled, 40 per cent with epilepsy had seizures which were brought about by switching or skipping medication while 36 per cent with Parkinson’s said “facing this difficult choice led to their symptoms worsening.”

“All too often they are being asked to make do with a fraction of the medication required, or to switch brands which can be particularly problematic for people with both conditions,” the charities said.

“The stress and uncertainty are causing seizures in people with epilepsy which impact employment, education and the ability to drive. Seizures can be fatal but many epilepsy deaths are preventable, with regular access to medication being the first line of defence.

"Sadly, many people aren't getting a regular epilepsy review and are therefore unaware of the potential risks posed by a lack of medication.”

The charities said pharmaceutical companies were operating to a “just-in-time” medicines supply model despite having been required in the run-up to Brexit to ensure they had a minimum six-week stockpile of medicines to support continuous supply.



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