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ABPI condemns UK medicines shortage

UK pharmaceutical organisation calls for Government to act on parallel trading to maintain reliable drug supplies

Urgent action is needed to tackle the worsening problems UK patients face when trying to receive their medicine prescriptions, according to the UK's Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

In response to the results of a medicine stock survey of pharmacists conducted by Chemist & Druggist magazine, the ABPI has expressed serious concerns about the risks for patients and is calling for urgent Government action to tackle what it sees as the root cause of the problem: those who are selling medicines intended for UK patients overseas to take advantage of exchange rates for profit.

Richard Barker, director general of the ABPI, said: "Our primary concern is for patients. Manufacturers have supplied more than enough medicines to satisfy patient demand in the UK but there is still not enough getting through to the front line. We believe that the problem is worsening, despite joint efforts by the Supply Chain Forum. The Government must take action to deal with unabated trading by those who continue to put profit before the well-being of NHS patients."

The Department of Health established the Supply Chain Forum earlier in 2010 to raise awareness of the issues around supply shortages, clarify the causes and work with the NHS, pharmacists, manufacturers and wholesalers to seek a lasting solution.

The current low UK drug prices make it attractive for intermediaries to export medicines intended for UK patients to other EU countries where they attract higher prices.

"The ABPI has presented two very specific proposals to Government that we believe will resolve the problem," Dr Barker went on.

"Since shortages result from a minority of pharmacists trading medicines intended for UK patients, the roles of pharmacist and wholesaler need to be clearly separated, as they are in a number of other European countries. We are also calling for the Government to introduce much more stringent criteria for the holders of wholesaler dealer licences to ensure they have the professional qualifications to fulfil their obligations responsibly and have appropriate facilities to hold a full range of NHS products."

6th September 2010

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