Patients undergoing opioid detoxification by taking lofexidine tablets might have to take the drugs beyond their expiry date, a trust has suggested.

As pharmaceutical company Britannia Pharmaceuticals will no longer supply lofexidine tablets Britlofex from the end of the month, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust Medicines Information Centre suggests that patients currently taking the medicine ‘extend their expiry date to finish their course of treatment’.

In a letter sent in March, Britannia customer services manager Debbie Yates confirmed that the supplier would be ‘temporarily withdrawing the product from the market whilst sourcing a new manufacturer’.

‘Likely to last several months’

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said Britannia was unable to confirm when the drug will be back in stock and that the out of stock period is likely to last several months.

It added: ‘The DHSC have been in discussion with specialist importer companies but have been unable to source supplies from abroad, as this product is not used in many other countries.’

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said in a memo that ‘local decisions on the risks and benefits of extending the expiry date of existing supplies may be necessary’.

‘To be notified urgently’

The memo continued: ‘Clinicians providing opioid detoxification services need to be notified urgently that supplies of lofexidine are unlikely to be available from the end of May in order to ensure that new patients are not started on courses that extend beyond that date.

‘Any such decision would need to take account of local clinical governance processes.’

Lofexidine is used to relieve symptoms such as chills, sweating, stomach camps and muscle pain in patients going through opioid detoxification.

At the moment, Britannia is the sole supplier of the drug in the UK. The only other country where lofexidine is currently licensed as a medicine is China, although it is expected to launch in the US in August.

The DHSC said it will provide an update when it has any ‘further information about the resupply of this product’.