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‘Drug shortages are worse than ever – it’s taking up valuable time’

Pharmacy News

‘Drug shortages are worse than ever – it’s taking up valuable time’

Waqas Ahmad (Twitter)

A Liverpool contractor has spoken to Pharmacy Network News about the impact drug shortages are having on his pharmacy, saying the situation is “as bad as I’ve ever known it to be”.

Speaking to PNN on Wednesday August 10, Neil’s Pharmacy owner Waqas Ahmad said that in addition to tackling a greater number of shortages than ever before, “there are products that you would never expect to be unavailable”.

“Soluble paracetamol is really difficult to get hold of, as are alendronic acid and citalopram 20mg. And while there’s been a supply notification for aripiprazole 10mg, we haven’t been able to get hold of any strengths,” he said.

Community pharmacists are spending much of their time either sourcing stock or getting in touch with GPs to try and arrange alternatives, he said, adding that he is having to contact practices two to three times a day at present. 

“You could argue it’s part of our role, but just doing the research to be sure clinically that we are offering not only the correct alternative, but one that is actually available, takes a lot of time,” Mr Ahmad told PNN.   

In some cases the extra time spent arranging suitable alternatives with GPs leads to delays in the patient receiving their medicines, he added.

He also spoke of the financial uncertainty caused by unpredictable Drug Tariff prices. “Most concession prices are announced in the last week of the month, which means we go a whole month of purchasing products above tariff without knowing whether we’re going to be paid the price we’ve paid out or not – we’re effectively blind buying or buying at a loss.

“I don’t know where some of the concession prices are coming from. Alendronic acid, for example, [shortages of which have been] hugely publicised – the lowest price I could find for it anywhere was £30 for all of July.

“When the concession price was announced it was around £12.80 – I don’t know where that price has come from or which supplier is offering it. If and when I could find the product, I was making a £7 loss on each pack.” 

Clawbacks, which can amount to between 8 and 10 per cent of Drug Tariff prices, exacerbate the issue, he said, criticising what he described as a “convoluted system”.

“Prices are announced so late in the month; how could any business do without knowing how much of a loss you’re going to make?”

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