DH claims it is ‘not aware of any amoxicillin supply issues’
The Department of Health and Social Care has said it is “not aware of any supply issues of amoxicillin” despite widespread concern among pharmacists about shortages.
Pharmacists have taken to social media in recent days to raise awareness of the difficulties they are experiencing trying to source commonly prescribed antibiotics, especially penicillin products like amoxicillin.
London pharmacist Graham Stetch posted a screenshot on Twitter yesterday showing 26 out of 28 products listed as out of stock, warning of a “big challenge in antibiotic availability and a huge demand”.
The concerns about shortages come in the awake of a statement from the UK Health Security Agency on Friday advising prescribers: “Given the unusually high level of [Group A strep infections], and viral co-circulation in the community, health care professionals are asked to have a low threshold to consider and empirically prescribe antibiotics to children presenting with features of GAS infection, including where secondary to viral respiratory illness.”
In a statement issued to Pharmacy Network News last night, the DHSC insisted that it had not been notified of any supply issues, adding: “There are antibiotics available to treat Strep A and your GP will be able to prescribe the most appropriate treatment.”
Pharmacists were critical of the Government’s stance, with one tweeting that health secretary Steve Barclay should “spend the morning in our pharmacy” to see the situation first hand.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board chair Thorrun Govind told Sky News this morning that “in my personal capacity as a pharmacist, we’ve got these items in and are providing them to the public”.
National Pharmacy Association vice-chair and Dorset Contractor Nick Kaye told reporters there are “blips in the supply chain” affecting first line treatments for GAS infections, but added that there are “second line and other infections that can be used”.
The PSNC told PNN it was “hearing some anecdotal reports of supply issues with amoxicillin (capsules and suspension) with limited stock showing at wholesalers,” adding that there “is a similar picture with phenoxymethylpenicillin (Pen V), with limited stock showing at wholesalers for tabs and liquid”.
PSNC drug tariff manager Suraj Shah commented: “Changes to prescribing guidance and practices can impact on the availability of medicines.”
Mr Shah said the recent UKHSA statement on prescribing antibiotics for GAS infections “is likely to lead to an increase in prescribing of certain antibiotics such as Pen V, which can have an impact on supply”.
He added:” Unfortunately, this is just one in a long line of medicine supply issues for which pharmacy teams are having to spend additional time sourcing medicines, contacting prescribers to issue replacement prescription for other available alternatives, and explaining reasons for delays in supply to concerned patients and carers.”
Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, told PNN: “It is important that individuals and the media do not fuel extra demand by creating unnecessary worry about potential shortages.”
Mr Day said that if the public are “exercised by a worry of shortages, it will be frontline pharmacists that have to deal with those emotive, potentially explosive interactions,” adding that abuse of pharmacy staff “is a longstanding issue”.