Record number of medicines face supply problems, warns BGMA
By Neil Trainis
Over 100 medicines are facing supply problems, according to the British Generic Manufacturers’ Association which renewed its criticism of the government’s “spiralling” tax on medicinal products.
Warning the Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS) was starting “to bite” and was a “direct” cause of shortages, the BGMA said its monthly supply issues dashboard which draws on “a range of data sources” such as NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care and covers on-patent and off-patent medicines, showed 111 products face supply issues.
That, the BGMA said, was a record number and more than double the amount since the start of 2022.
Of those 111 products, it said, 55 were branded generics covering areas such as HRT, contraceptives, anaphylaxis, ADHD, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, lung conditions, epilepsy, acne , osteoporosis, mental health (anti- depression ), heart disease, and immunosuppressants (used following transplants).
Last month, the BGMA warned VPAS will force integrated care boards in England to find another £37 million each year on average over the next five years which will increase the risk of medicines shortages.
BGMA chief executive Mark Samuels said it was “impossible to ignore the correlation” between the record number of medicines supply issues including branded generics and an increasing VPAS rebate rate.
“Supply issues for generic medicines are on the rise and patients are sadly being impacted as they represent four out of five NHS prescriptions,” he said.
He added: “Generics operate on high volumes and razor thin margins, so by adding a tax on revenues which has increased five-fold in two years means manufacturers have little option but to reduce or remove supplies of some products. This is not about making less profit but actually making losses as a direct result of VPAS.
“There is finite supply of medicines and companies are being forced to allocate their supplies to other countries where tax regimes are less punitive. Supply issues connected to HRT are a good example of this in practice.”
Samuel urged those involved in negotiations on the next VPAS running from 2024 to 2028 not to ignore “the consequences of a high rate and the disproportionate impact it is having on off-patent products which already have their costs significantly constrained by competition.”
“The government must act otherwise the NHS will pay more for medicines and shortages will becoming increasingly common,” he said.
The BGMA said biosimilar medicines which, alongside b randed generics, "create vast annual savings to the NHS by creating competition to originator products," also have to pay the VPAS rebate rate and warned manufacturers will continue making "difficult decisions" about whether to supply products or cancel "potential future launches."
"Branded generics and biosimilars are commonly 80 per cent less than what the originator price was on patent," the BGMA said. "However, with competition constraining their prices, margins for off-patent medicines are very low and therefore having to pay a rebate on revenues of 26.5 per cent makes many products simply economically unviable."