Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesman Neal Patel has told PharmaTimes World News that the government must take action to ensure that patients can access the medicines they need when they need them, after worrying findings of a report indicate that the medicines supply chain is not working and patients are being put at risk.

A year-long investigation by Chemist and Druggist shows that, on average, pharmacists are spending at least two working days a month chasing manufacturers and wholesalers to source of out-of-stock medicines. 

Moreover, of those responding to C+D's Stocks Survey 2012, 57% said at least one of their patients' health had suffered because of drug shortages, marking a 12% rise on the prior year. 

According to the report, if these findings are applied across the UK's pharmacies, 700,000 pharmacy patients a year are suffering because of problems in the medicines supply chain. 

Shockingly, pharmacies are now reporting that their patients are suffering harm in 75% of drug shortages, the majority of which is moderate but, in 12% cases, patient were said to have suffered severe harm because of the delay in accessing their medicines.

System failure

The RPS agrees that the current system is faltering. "Patients have endured the effects of a failing supply system for too long. Voluntary agreements have been signed between Government and others involved in the supply chain to improve access to medicines, the C and D survey shows we have seen no improvements at all at the sharp end," Patel told PT

Given the findings, C+D has called on the government to retract a statement by health minister Earl Howe in 2012 that the current approach to medicines supply is "working well" and recognise that drug shortages are harming patients.

In an emailed statement to PT, Lord Howe said: “We know stock shortages are of great concern to pharmacy teams and I am grateful to Chemist and Druggist and its readers for making this information available.  We will consider it carefully.”