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The NHS is facing shortages of lifesaving treatments, says internal document

Identifies 17 new shortages including drugs for cancer treatment

Medicine

According to an internal document seen by The Guardianthe NHS is facing significant shortages of a number of lifesaving medicines for the treatment of cancer, heart conditions and epilepsy. 

The document was sent to doctors from the medicine supply team at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and allegedly listed various drugs that the NHS is facing shortages of.

The 17 new drug shortages identified included cancer drugs, treatments for Parkinson’s, mental health drugs and some eye conditions.

In addition to identifying these new drug shortages, the document also revealed ongoing issues with 69 different types and doses of medication including antibiotics for tuberculosis, diamorphine, various cancer drugs, heart condition medications, hepatitis vaccines and anti-epilepsy drugs.

The document also apparently told doctors that certain patients would need to have priority over others for access to lifesaving drugs. Recommendations for rationing in the document included breaking tablets in half, as a measure to prolong supplies.

According to The Guardian, the document described one treatment for stomach and pancreatic cancer which currently has no date for resupply from the manufacturer.

It identified that there are “no alternative supplies of UK licensed [drugs]...available to support this gap in supply. You may wish to consider the following as a priority: patients completing a course of treatment and those already booked for surgery.”

“Shortages of medicines risk price distortion at the expense of health budgets, disrupt patient drug regimes and can undermine public health objectives. The public deserves full transparency of pricing structures and the reasons for and financial implications of drug shortages,” said Rachel Cooper, the director of the health initiative at Transparency International, an anti-corruption network.

This worrying document comes on the heels of the UK Government publishing a list of medicines that must not be exported due to shortages in the NHS in October.

The ban applies to the ‘parallel trade’ of medicines – the buying and selling of products between countries in order to profit from price differentials.

The Government noted that 19 HRT drugs are covered by the restrictions, which are also in place in other EU countries including France and Spain.

The DHSC also said at that time that its has introduced serious shortage protocols for the antidepressant fluoxetine, as manufacturing issues mean the drug is temporarily in short supply.

Regarding the most recent medicine shortages, a spokesperson from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said: “For new on-patent medicines there is an agreement between the government and pharmaceutical companies to cap NHS spending growth on branded medicines at 2%, with anything over this paid back to the government.”

“Manufacturers know that any medicine shortage is extremely worrying for the people affected by it and they do everything they can to prevent medicine supply problems occurring and to resolve them quickly if they do happen,” they added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

18th November 2019

From: Healthcare

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