The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has written to health and social care secretary Steve Barclay to ask him to convene a ‘medicines supply taskforce’ after antibiotics supply issues.

The NPA’s chief executive Mark Lyonette called for the secretary of state to bring together relevant stakeholders from throughout the supply chain to ‘urgently discuss and agree practical solutions’ to address medicines supply.

He cited the HRT taskforce, which was convened this summer to resolve issues relating to the supply of hormone replacement therapy, adding that ‘HRT and antibiotics are the most visible examples of a wider problem with medicines supply which needs to be addressed’.

NPA board member Olivier Picard said that the ‘whole system’ needed fixing. ‘It’s not just HRT and it’s not just antibiotics, it’s a systemic and long-standing problem and needs government to grip it,’ he said.

‘Getting people together is a necessary part of the process of fixing this chaos, because the whole system needs to work effectively, from top to bottom.’

Earlier this year, Dr Leyla Hannbeck of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), called for the government to work with manufacturers and suppliers to manage the supply of HRT. 

Pharmacists have shared their struggles getting hold of antibiotics over the last few weeks, with supply described as ‘patchy’ following an increase in Strep A infections and GPs told to ‘have a low threshold’ for prescribing antibiotics to children presenting with symptoms associated with Group A Streptococcal infections.

Following a surge in antibiotics wholesale prices, the Competition and Markets Authority said this week that it was ‘working to establish the facts of what is currently happening in the market’ and would ‘welcome new information’ as part of its work.

‘People have got real concerns about the price of antibiotics used to treat Strep A, and we want companies to be clear about their obligations under the law. There should be no doubt that it is illegal for a dominant company to charge excessive prices, or for any companies to collude to drive up prices’, a CMA spokesperson said.

‘We stand ready to take action if there is evidence of anti-competitive behaviour that breaks the law,’ they added.