Islington pharmacists running short of drugs blaming Brexit and manufacturers ‘hiking prices'

‘Painkiller used to cost £2 a box, now it’s £18 – it just doesn’t make sense’

Friday, 15th March 2019 — By Emily Finch


Pharmacists Hettal Patel ‘This is the worst I’ve experienced in shortages’

A RETIRED teacher was left “flailing in bed” after not being able to receive her diabetes medication as pharmacists in the borough warned they are unable to keep shelves stocked because of Brexit and price hikes by manufacturers.

Retired teacher Jan Pollock, who lives in Hornsey Lane, said her local pharmacist had run out of the blood sugar measuring sticks she requires to keep her diabetes in check on two occasions last month.

She told the Tribune: “My pharmacist tried her best but there was just no stock of it any- where. There was nothing she can do. It was quite frightening because I’ve lost all symptoms of having a hypoglycaemic attack where your blood sugar plummets.

“In my 36 hours without the sticks I had a fit in the bed for an hour with limbs flailing. It was awful.”

Tricia Barnett, a campaigner for Islington Keep Our NHS Public, said fellow patients at her GP surgery had said they were struggling to fill their prescriptions for some medications at pharmacies throughout the borough.

She said: “It’s becoming clear that many of us are facing issues in obtaining prescriptions in the timely way that we’re used to. What is unclear to me is whether this is the result of the severe, new rationing of services by NHS England or because pharmaceutical companies are holding back and exploiting Brexit for increased profits. Whatever the reason, it comes at a cost to us all, both as users and as tax payers.”

Jan Pollock

Hettal Patel, 32, who runs the independent Arkle Pharmacy in Junction Road, warned of the “stress and duress” that she is under to keep shelves stocked while faced with shortages from her wholesale suppliers and rocketing prices from manufacturers.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) – the body that represents pharmacists – provides a list of medications each month which the Department of Health and Social Care provide as a concession to pharmacists.

The government has to step in and help pay for these medications because of price hikes by manufacturers otherwise pharmacies will face a huge financial loss. The list usually indicates the medications that are most at risk of running out.

Ms Patel, who took over the popular community pharmacy from her father but has worked there for more than 10 years, said: “In the last three months this list has really increased. Signs have pointed to the Brexit situation. This is the worst I’ve experienced in shortages.

“Manufacturers increase prices but this puts a huge demand on doctors and the community. For our patients in dire need, I’ll dispense at a loss. I don’t want that person to be without medication. Things might only get worse as the months go on.”

She pointed to the price changes in Naproxen, a common anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain.

“It used to cost £2 a box a few years ago but now it’s £18. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.

She added: “Larger chain pharmacies see the monetary side, refer the patient back to the GP so they’re sent to another chemist. What this does is put such a burden on the GP surgery, especially if no one has the medication. It’s a strain on the NHS.”

Patients pay £8.80 to fill a prescription at the pharmacy. “People get their medications and are happy but we are really struggling as pharmacists,” she said.

Ms Patel was backed by the PSNC, which has headquarters in Smith- field. Their spokeswoman said that price hikes happen for “many reasons” including where “manufacturers have problems making or transporting medicines or their ingredients”.

They added: “In recent years we have seen an increase in shortage problems for a combination of these reasons, and pharmacies are already having to spend a lot of time trying to source medicines for

their patients. Factors such as Brexit planning and contingency may be adding to the ongoing issues. Pharmacies are increasingly reporting price escalations as products go into short supply, and in recent months we have seen an

increase in the number of medicines being granted a ‘price concession’.”

The four main manufacturers of Naproxen that Ms Patel stocks did not respond to the Tribune’s request for comment as to why they had increased prices.

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