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25% pharmacists say medicines shortages have led to patient harm, says PDA survey

By Beth Kennedy

18 Oct 2019

One in four pharmacists have seen medicines shortages lead to patient harm in the past year, according to a survey.

A survey of 1,071 pharmacists by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) between August and September revealed that 25% of respondents were aware of medicines shortages leading to patient harm in the preceding 12 months.

Examples of patient harm included patients being admitted to hospital with anaphylactic shock due to a lack of available auto-immune injectors, patients on HRT being ‘severely distressed’ due to widespread shortages of their medication and patients suffering seizures due to shortages of anti-epileptic drugs.

The survey results, published last month (27 September), also revealed that 91% of respondents considered shortages to have increased in the preceding 12 months, whereas just 1% said that shortages had decreased.

Over half (55%) of respondents thought that a no-deal Brexit would lead to shortages becoming ‘much worse’.

The Government has been stepping up its plans to avoid medicines shortages after Britain is due to leave the EU on 31 October.

The majority of respondents (67.5%) said they worked in community pharmacy, with other respondents coming from hospital, GP practice, locum and primary care settings.


‘It is taking up ever more of my time’


According to the PDA, one respondent said: ‘The very significant increase in medicine shortages has been noted by patients and I daily am asked if it is because of Brexit. I cannot answer as I have no information on why it is happening.

‘But it is taking up ever more of my time – trying to source, getting prescriptions for alternatives & having increasing numbers of confrontational patients taking their anger and blame out on me & my staff. This further reduces morale in a sector where it is already low.’

Another said: ‘The situation is becoming critical and I believe has serious consequences to patients. I’m not sure if Brexit has resulted in some issues at present but worry it may worsen.’

Join The Pharmacist’s fight against medicines shortages. Follow #WarOnShortages on Twitter for the latest 

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