The government has been urged to hold talks between manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies to discuss potential reforms to medicines supply.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said yesterday that she had had a ‘very constructive discussion’ with Will Quince, minister of state for health and secondary care with responsibility for medicines supply.

In a post shared on LinkedIn, she said that they had discussed the causes of the ‘escalating problems around medicines supply and their cost’ and their impact on pharmacy and patients.

She called for roundtable discussions between manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies to discuss how the current supply system could be reformed.

Dr Hannbeck also said that she had raised the ‘bureaucratic burden around the SSP process which could be eliminated to make the process easier for pharmacists’.

She said that Mr Quince had pledged to take these suggestions forward and continue further discussions.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that Mr Quince met with Dr Hannbeck to discuss issues in community pharmacy, including concerns about supply of cold and flu medicines.

A DHSC spokesperson said that it was ‘aware of reports of issues with the availability of some branded cold and flu medicines’ but that these appeared to be ‘temporary’ and ‘localised’.

They added: ‘Supply of over-the-counter medicines is not controlled by central government but we are engaging with suppliers to investigate and help ensure that over-the-counter cold and flu medicines remain available.’

Yesterday, Michelle Riddalls, CEO of PAGB, which represents the interests of OTC manufacturers, told The Pharmacist that ‘while some cough or cold products may be less readily available at some stores this is likely to be local and very sporadic as there are no reports of widespread shortages’.

She shared figures from IRI that show that demand for over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines at Christmas was nearly 60% higher than in 2019, as well as data from IQVIA showing that incidences of coughs, colds and flu were 46% higher in December than the same point in 2021, surpassing pre-pandemic figures and well exceeding the five-year average.

In December, pharmacists struggled with antibiotics supply issues and a surge in wholesale prices due to increased demand amid Strep A concerns.


In December, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) wrote to health and social care secretary Steve Barclay to ask him to bring together relevant stakeholders from throughout the supply chain to convene a ‘medicines supply taskforce’, similar to the one set up for HRT last summer.

NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said that ‘HRT and antibiotics are the most visible examples of a wider problem with medicines supply which needs to be addressed’.

Dr Hannbeck had previously called for the government to work with manufacturers and suppliers to manage the supply of HRT. 

In December, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) called for a change in the law to allow pharmacists to make minor amendments to prescriptions without the need for a serious shortage protocol (SSP).

RPS England chair Thorrun Govind said in a statement at the time that the current process of asking the prescriber to change the prescription ‘causes unnecessary workload for GPs and delays for patients’.