Schizophrenia drug shortage affecting patient care, College of Mental Health Pharmacy warns

Supplies of aripiprazole 10mg tablets are low until late August 2022 and there is "limited scope for alternatives".

A shortage of aripiprazole tablets across the UK is leaving healthcare professionals and patients struggling to fulfil prescriptions, the representative body for pharmacists working in mental health care has said.  

A medicines supply notification, published by the Department for Health and Social Care on 3 August 2022, said that aripiprazole 10mg tablets would be “in limited supply” until late August 2022, adding that “alternative strengths and formulations of aripiprazole remain available, but no individual product can support a full uplift in demand”.

Aripiprazole is used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia. While the shortage is ongoing, clinicians have been asked not to initiate any new prescriptions of the drug. To fulfil existing prescriptions, the medicines supply notification states that it is acceptable to prescribe higher or lower strength aripiprazole tablets to deliver the same dose, if appropriate. Unlicensed 10mg tablets can be sourced, but should, the notification said, be used “only where licensed alternatives are not appropriate”.

Roz Gittins, president of the College of Mental Health Pharmacy (CMHP), said the shortage was “an issue that is being experienced across the UK by prescribers, pharmacy teams and the people who need the medication too”.

“It’s the lack of availability as well as cost that is having an impact, and — depending on the clinical situation — there can be limited scope for alternatives.

“Across our CMHP community, colleagues are reporting problems and commenting on the time taken up by having to respond to associated queries in primary and secondary care environments. Furthermore, concern is being expressed for community pharmacy teams: this is yet another example of a medicines supply issue that adds to workload pressures and impacts on the ability to deliver high quality care.”

A spokesperson for the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) said: “As stated in the DHSC/NHS medicine supply notification for aripiprazole, supplies are expected to improve shortly.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2022, Vol 309, No 7964;309(7964)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.154686

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