More than eight in 10 pharmacists believe a no-deal Brexit will make stock shortages worse, a report by a support group has revealed.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) surveyed over 1,000 UK pharmacists across sectors – over two-thirds (67.5%) of which were community pharmacists – between 22 August and 27 September 2019.
The report, published last week (27 September), found that 91% of respondents had seen medicines shortages increase over the last 12 months, with over a fifth (21%) of prescription drugs affected in the last three months.
Almost as many respondents (81%) predicted that medicines shortages will get worse in the case of a no-deal Brexit, with over two-thirds of these (68%) believing they would get ‘much worse’.
One anonymous respondent said patients had noticed the ‘very significant increase’ in shortages and that they are asked ‘daily’ whether the supply issues are linked to Brexit. They added: ‘I cannot answer [this] as I have no information on why it is happening.’
The figures come as the pharmacy sector calls on the Government to up its efforts to prevent the worsening of shortages in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
Last month, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) called for greater flexibility for contractors to share medicines during shortages, after the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) warned that the Government’s no-deal contingency plans did not go far enough.
In September, the Government announced plans to set up a £25m ‘express freight service’ to deliver medicines from Europe after Brexit.
The report also found that 62% of respondents spend an hour or more every day on managing medicines shortages.
An anonymous pharmacist said: ‘It is taking up [more and more] of my time – trying to source [medicines], getting [a prescription] for alternatives and having increasing numbers of confrontational patients taking their anger and blame out on me and my staff.
‘This further reduces morale in a sector where it is already low.’
Another respondent said they spend ‘hours’ every day repeatedly chasing products, leading to an ‘unfathomable’ increase in their workload.
They added that GP practices and hospitals should have access to live stock figures to prevent the prescribing of unavailable medicines.
A quarter (25%) of respondents also said they were aware of shortages leading to patient harm in the last 12 months.
Examples included patients suffering seizures due to a scarcity of anti-epileptic drugs or having to carry expired adrenaline autoinjectors due to a lack of in-date stock.