Uncertainty caused by Brexit may be “exacerbating” issues around medicines shortages, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
This comes after the latest round of concessions issued by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) on 28 February 2019 brought the total number of drugs on the February list up to 90 — one fewer than when medicines shortages were at their peak in November 2017.
According to data analysed by Oxford University’s OpenPrescribing system, the February 2019 concessions are projected to cost the NHS an additional £20m.
The figure was calculated based on combining drug tariff and price concession data for February 2019 with the most recent prescribing data for December 2018.
OpenPrescribing, which compares the standard prices of medicines from NHS Business Services Authority with concession data from PSNC, has estimated that price concessions have cost NHS England £162.7m in the past 12 months.
Mike Dent, director of pharmacy funding at the PSNC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that there has been “a surge” of generic medicines that are not purchasable at drug tariff prices since October 2018.
“These shortages are due to a combination of factors, such as manufacturing problems and the UK being seen as a less attractive market for manufacturers as community pharmacies have helped drive down medicine prices for the NHS,” he said.
“Uncertainty around Brexit and contingency planning may also be exacerbating these issues.”
He added that pharmacists “at times are having to contact up to seven or eight wholesalers to obtain a medicine”.
“In December 2018, [the PSNC] wrote to Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health and social care committee, to outline our concerns about the potential impact of Brexit on the medicines supply chain, and we continue to monitor the situation with [the DHSC],” he said.
The DHSC revealed on 26 February 2019 that 7,000 prescription-only and pharmacy medicines have been stockpiled by their suppliers, as part of UK government contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.