Two antiviral drugs used to treat flu have been added to the list of medicines that cannot be exported or hoarded.
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; Roche) and zanamivir (Relenza; GSK) were added to the list by the government on 20 December 2022, along with the antibiotic flucloxacillin.
On 14 December 2022, the antibiotics amoxicillin, cefalexin, phenoxymethylpenicillin (Penicillin V) and azithromycin oral suspension were added to the list, in response to rising demand as a result of an increase in Strep A infections.
Antibiotic shortages have been widely reported, but despite the addition of the antiviral flu drugs to the no-hoarding list, Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacists, said her members had not reported shortages of flu drugs.
“These medicines [oseltamivir and zanamivir] are not very commonly used, so if there was an issue we wouldn’t notice immediately,” she said.
She said that the “precautionary measures” relating to flu drugs were “welcome” but added that there is still a need for “transparency across the supply chain”.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said its dispensing and supply team had not received reports from contractors about shortages of oseltamivir or zanamivir.
Primary care surveillance reports from the UK Health Security Agency showed influenza-like illness rose in the week of 5 December 2022 to 11 December 2022 to 15.5 per 100,000 population, compared with 9.4 per 100,000 population the previous week. Laboratory data showed an increase in samples testing positive for influenza, from 16.2% in the week beginning 29 November2022 to 20.2% in the week beginning 5 December 2022. The highest positivity rate was among children aged 5 to 14 years.
The government issued five further serious shortage protocols (SSPs) on 16 December 2022 for penicillin as attempts to alleviate difficulties in sourcing antibiotics continue.
The government introduced SSPs for: phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg tablets; phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5mL oral solution sugar free; phenoxymethylpenicillin 250mg/5mL oral solution; phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5mL oral solution sugar free; and phenoxymethylpenicillin 125mg/5mL oral solution.
Three previous SSPs were issued for penicillin on 15 December 2022.