Shortages of the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin and an increase in its price is having a “serious impact” on pharmacies, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has warned.
In a statement published on 5 July 2023, CPE said it had been contacted by several pharmacy owners about the difficulties and had subsequently informed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of contractors’ concerns.
It said that pharmacies were “desperately trying to get hold of limited stock” of atorvastatin, and that contractors were “having to pay inflated prices for it without any certainty of their final reimbursement prices”.
Atorvastatin is widely prescribed in the NHS as a cholesterol-lowing drug and is one of the medicines reported to be affected by shortages by pharmacists in The Pharmaceutical Journal‘s 2023 salary and job satisfaction survey.
Five serious shortage protocols have been issued for atorvastatin in the past two years, with the most recent expiring in May 2023.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said that pharmacies were having to pay as much as ten times more for atorvastatin than they were less than two months ago, and some pharmacies had reported being unable to supply the medicine to as many as 100 patients in one day.
“These prices for atorvastatin have jumped from 49p through to £5.30 [per pack] within less than 6 weeks, hammering contractors’ cashflow when reimbursement remains stubbornly at £1.59,” she said.
“I have appealed for this situation to be resolved once and for all, asking the DHSC to bring all stakeholders, including wholesalers and pharmacy operators, around a table to discuss the issues and find solutions.”
The CPE statement added: “The DHSC supply team has been working closely with manufacturers and wholesalers on this issue.”
The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached the DHSC for comment.