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Cash injection of £5m won’t stop drug shortages, warn NI pharmacists


Cash injection of £5m won’t stop drug shortages, warn NI pharmacists

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland has said a promised £5.3m cash injection from the Department of Health “falls considerably short” of what the sector needs to tackle spiralling medicine shortages and price hikes.

The negotiator warned that pharmacists will “no longer be able to afford” to source medicines without a stronger intervention, citing alendronic acid 70mg tablets, lercanidipine tablets and fluoxetine 20mg capsules as some of the lines that are currently affected. 

CPNI first issued a statement yesterday calling on the Department of Health to take action in the wake of “skyrocketing” drug prices and prevent pharmacists having to spend time sourcing medicines that could otherwise be spent with patients.

“It is a fact that community pharmacies regularly pay suppliers more for medicines than they get back form the department,” CPNI chief Gerard Greene said as he called for funding structure reforms. 

Meanwhile, Belfast pharmacist David McCrea said he had seen some prices “rising fiftyfold,” warning that his pharmacy is “now facing the situation where we will not be able to afford to supply our patients with essential medicines within weeks”.

DH responds to ‘surprising’ statement

Responding to this, the Department of Health said that in a meeting with CPNI earlier that week it had already pledged a £5.3m support package for NI pharmacies “plus a commitment to progress wider reform arrangements” in collaboration with the negotiator.

“It is therefore somewhat surprising to see CPNI publicly demanding a package which it already knows is on the way.”

The department said health minister Robin Swann is “very aware of the pressures facing community pharmacies”. 

A CPNI spokesperson replied: “Our teams need support at this time and the measures outlined by the Department of Health fall far short of what is needed.

“These supply issues come at a time when the community pharmacy network is facing an unworkable £20-30m deficit in its funding this year and the package of £5.3m falls considerably short to ensure the safe supply of medicines to patients.”

CPNI said it was “committed” to working with DH officials but stressed: “The operational pressures on community pharmacy teams are at a level never experienced before and the financial uncertainty means that we have no choice but to call for immediate action.’

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