PATIENTS on Wearside could be missing out on lifesaving drugs due to wide-scale medicine shortages.
Pharmacists in the city are finding it increasingly difficult to attain about 50 products for their patients, including treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, asthma and diabetes.
The Sunderland Local Pharmaceutical Committee has highlighted particular issues in obtaining Femara, Zoton Fastab and Spiriva over the last couple of years and are worried that patients will suffer.
Greg Clark from Lloydspharmacy in The Green, Southwick, said: “Medicine shortages are having a real impact on patients’ health across the UK and it’s particularly concerning when it affects patients with serious or long term conditions.
“At Lloydspharmacy we’ve been working hard to draw attention to this issue as it’s increasingly difficult to get hold of standard, widely prescribed medicines.
“Across the Lloydspharmacy network 80 per cent of us find we’re unable to dispense medicines for four or more prescriptions a week.”
In a recent survey, 45 per cent of pharmacists said they were aware of a patient whose health has suffered in the past year because of difficulties they had in getting a particular NHS-prescribed drug.
Mr Clark added: “Government needs to recognise the scale and seriousness of the problem and take action now to bring together all those involved in the supply and distribution of medicines to find a pragmatic, patient-focused solution to the problem.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, has written to Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley to highlight the problems facing the area’s pharmacies.
Locally, pharmacists have reported problems obtaining drugs to treat breast cancer, ulcers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease over the last couple of years.
Mrs Hodgson said: “In the midst of coming to terms with a serious medical condition, the last thing any of us would want to face is the fear of not being able to receive the treatment we need, or have it interrupted because of a problem in obtaining the medicine we need. Yet, this is the situation many people in my constituency and across the UK are facing.
“Pharmacists are working extremely hard, but they often can’t get the drugs their patients need when they need them. It’s time the Government acted to fix this worrying problem.”
The reasons for the shortages of these vital medicines are varied, but there are concerns over the pressure on all parts of the pharmaceutical drug supply chain from manufacturers, through wholesalers and distributors, to pharmacists.
Mrs Hodgson wants the health secretary to undertake a full independent survey to identify the extent of the shortages.