Sanofi, which manufactures hyoscine butylbromide (Buscopan) in the UK, has confirmed that there are supply problems with the product used to relieve the symptoms of stomach cramps and IBS.

In a statement to The Pharmacist, a Sanofi spokesperson said the company is ‘currently facing some challenges in supplying stock to the UK due to a manufacturing issue, which unfortunately means that some people may be finding that there is patchy availability of Buscopan products’.

They added: ‘We are working hard to resolve the manufacturing issue as quickly as possible and, in the meantime, we are doing everything we can to ensure that we are getting as much supply as possible into the UK.’

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) also confirmed that contractors have reported some supply issues, and that the organisation is awaiting a response from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) about the situation.

The Pharmacist has also approached the DHSC for comment.

Healthcare professionals have taken to Twitter with concerns about the shortage, with one pre-registration pharmacist commenting that Buscopan is ‘out of stock literally everywhere in West Yorkshire’, and a GP commenting that they had heard of a ‘national shortage’ of the drug.

This comes after a PSNC survey in April found two-thirds of pharmacists are experiencing medicine supply chain issues every day, while 75% are experiencing supply-related aggression from patients.

In May, the National Pharmacy Association said pharmacies should have greater powers to share medicines between one another to help manage shortages, including a return of the 5% rule.

Pharmacies were able to share stock without a wholesale dealer’s licence (WDA) if it didn’t exceed 5% of their turnover under what was known as the ‘5% rule’ until 2012, when it was significantly curtailed to comply with an EU directive.

Gordon Hockey, PSNC's director, legal, told The Pharmacist said a return of the 5% rule ‘would be clearer and give pharmacists and pharmacies greater confidence to share medicines with each other with the aim of meeting patient demand’.