A handful of UK charities and community pharmacists urged the UK government to find a fix for the ongoing drug shortage issue to prevent further patient suffering.

The UK Epilepsy Society, SUDEP Action, Epilepsy Action and Parkinson’s UK, joined forces to call for a meeting with the Health Secretary, Victoria Atkins.

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) found that community pharmacists are spending an average of two hours every day to find patients’ medications due to the disruptions. In a 11 April press release, Dr. Leyla Hannbeck, AIMp’s CEO, said, “The system is overly complex and shrouded in secrecy – what we need is openness and transparency. Pharmacists are in the same position as patients – we are at the end of the supply chain but are the last people to find out about medication shortages. Consequently, we are unable to plan in advance and support the people who rely on us for their medications.”

The current UK system for reporting drug shortages, first published in April 2021, was last updated in September 2023. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) works with the Commercial Medicines Unit in NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to try and prevent shortages.

Epilepsy drugs like Novartis’ Tegretol (carbamazepine) and GSK’s Lamictal (lamotrigine) have been difficult to access in 2024, as per Epilepsy Action. Parkinson’s therapies such as Teva Pharmaceuticals’ carbidopa and Co-benaldopa, a generic version of Roche’s Madopar, will also experience shortages until June 2024, according to Parkinson’s UK. The charities asked for a more robust system to tackle the ongoing problem, as per a 11 April press release.

Claire Pelham, the Epilepsy Society’s CEO, said, “The challenges [that epilepsy patients face] should not include a struggle to get a prescription for what can be a life-saving medication. This has to be a fundamental right and whichever government comes to power at the next election, they must make it a priority to work with charities and pharmacists to ensure that the medicines supply chain is robust. And that people can access their medication when they need it.”

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