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Seriously ill Scots are being forced to travel miles to get vital medication amid shortage of drugs across country

Seriously ill Scots are being forced to travel miles to get vital medication amid shortage of drugs across country

By John Paul Breslin For The Scottish Mail On Sunday

18:55 29 Jun 2024, updated 18:55 29 Jun 2024

  • Mail campaign urging governments to bring in changes to end crisis
  • National Pharmacy Association say warnings of lack of medicines have tripled in past two years

Scots with serious health conditions face dire shortages of medicines – with some forced to travel for miles to get vital drugs.

Medicines for those with cystic fibrosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and diabetes are all currently affected by supply issues.

The situation has also impacted stocks of epilepsy medication and hormone replacement therapy treatments in recent months.

Now The Mail on Sunday has launched a campaign to end the drug shortage nightmare. We are calling on the UK and Scottish governments to implement four changes which would help to resolve the crisis.

They are that pharmacists should be given more power to make substitutions when drugs are out of stock; that manufacturers should be forced to give advance warning of known shortages or face fines; a public database should be created to allow patients to check which pharmacies have their drugs in stock; and that all NHS patients should be allowed to use hospital pharmacies to source crucial drugs.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said that medicine shortages create stress for patients, their families and pharmacy teams
Sabrina Duncan has had problems accessing ADHD medication for both of her sons

Laura Wilson, Royal Pharmaceutical Society director for Scotland, said: ‘Medicine shortages are creating a lot of stress for patients, families and pharmacy teams across Scotland, just like in the rest of the UK.

‘Delays in receiving medicines mean pharmacists spend hours tracking down supplies when more time and expertise could be spent directly with patients.’

People with cystic fibrosis must take the vital supplement Creon with every meal or risk bowel pain, dramatic weight loss, infections and grave illness. 

Without it, they cannot absorb any nutrients from their food.

However, there is currently a Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP) in place for Creon capsules, which has left some people struggling to get supplies. SSPs alert pharmacies and other providers when shortages are ‘acute’ and they may need to supply alternatives.

David Ramsden, chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: ‘These medicines are essential as they help the body absorb vital fats, oils and critical medications, and control painful and unpleasant gut symptoms.

‘We know some people are spending hours calling or travelling to multiple pharmacies or reducing their food intake. 

We need manufacturers and the Government to urgently work together to take all actions to address the shortages.’

Reasons for the supply issues, which affect the whole of the UK, include manufacturing or distribution problems and increased demand for medicines.

Some commentators also blame wider factors including Brexit, the conflict in Ukraine and the Covid pandemic.

Sabrina Duncan’s sons both have ADHD. Her youngest, Blake, nine, struggles to concentrate without his medication, lisdexamfetamine, as does her oldest, Corey, 14, without Xaggitin.

Ms Duncan, 36, of Methil, Fife, said: ‘I had issues getting medicine for my youngest that lasted for months. He struggled a lot because of it. 

However, Corey has not had any medication for a year and a half. It has had a huge impact.’

Earlier this week, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) revealed that warnings of medicine shortages have more than tripled in the past two years.

The NPA found that the UK Government sent out 50 SSPs between 2022 and 2024, compared to just 15 between 2019 and 2021.

A Scottish Government spokesman said it is engaging with the UK Government on the issue.

The spokesman added: ‘The NHS has robust systems in place to manage medicine shortages when they arise. 

Anyone affected by this should speak to their doctor or pharmacist.’

A UK Government Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We are working to resolve remaining issues as soon as possible.’

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