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Shortages: Break some tablets in half, Government report recommends


By Eleanor Philpotts

18 Nov 2019

Some medicines might need to be cut in half due to a shortage of 86 drugs, a document leaked from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has revealed.

The internal 24-page document, circulated late last week to certain doctors by the DHSC’s medicine supply team, said some patients would have to be prioritised over others, and in some cases, the document recommended breaking tablets in half or finding ways of sharing supplies.

The document also stated that unlicensed versions might be imported, according to The Guardian, but there was no indication around when this may happen.

The DHSC said it is unable to comment due to the pre-election period.

 

17 new shortages

 

The document listed 17 new drug shortages, including those for cancer, Parkinson’s disease and mental health conditions, and emphasised the ongoing shortages of 69 others, including antibiotics, hepatitis vaccines and anti-epilepsy drugs.

The document said:

  • Certain anti-epilepsy drugs will be out of stock until March 2020;
  • Two suppliers of tuberculosis medication are out of stock, with a third ‘unable to support any uplift in demand’;
  • There is ‘insufficient stock’ of diamorphine to meet both primary and secondary care demand;
  • The sole supplier of cyanide poisoning drug was also reported to be undergoing long-term out-of-stock issues;
  • The type and frequency of dose may also need to be changed for dementia patients.

Last month saw the Government issue its first serious shortage protocol to combat the issue, allowing pharmacists to change the formulation of the antidepressant fluoxetine on prescriptions, without first consulting a GP.


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