Stocks of many popular medicines could be in danger of getting on the thin side as pharmacists in the UK are reportedly selling drugs abroad to take advantage of the current weak pound.

According to The Times, wholesalers have put restrictions on the supply of as many as 370 medicines to those pharmacies believed to be over-ordering drugs with a view to selling them abroad - which is known as ‘skimming’ - to ensure there are no shortages.

The value of medicines being exported has risen significantly over the last few months, as more and more pharmacists are using the opportunity to make some extra cash. Market analyst IMS Health estimates that a whopping £30 million worth of drugs destined for the UK were sold by pharmacists overseas in March, while this was virtually zero a year ago, The Times points out.

While skimming is not illegal, the practice, coupled with the usual wholesaler restrictions on the supply of drugs, has made it harder for pharmacists to obtain certain medicines, including AstraZeneca’s ulcer therapy Nexium and Sanodi-Aventis’ blood thinner Plavix. This is because after the usual quota for a particular medicine from a wholesaler is reached pharmacists then have to approach the manufacturer directly for supply, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee confirmed to PharmaTimes UK News.

Commenting on the situation, David Baker, chief executive of the Dispensing Doctors' Association, told the newspaper: “This is a very, very serious problem and the result could be that somebody can't get the medicine that they need and dies. In the old days it was never a problem but the supply just isn't there now because it's going out of the country”.