Supply chain issues continue to cause cold and flu medicine shortages

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The supply of medicines to treat symptoms of influenza and the common cold is not meeting demand, as 2022’s issues with drug shortages continue into 2023.

There have been reports of an unprecedented shortage in the supply of well-known medicine brands including Calpol and Lemsip in UK pharmacies.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies Leyla Hannbeck said: “Pharmacists are struggling to obtain the very basic, most common cold and flu medicine.”

She continued: “The demand has been high because this season we’ve seen higher cases of colds and flu and people are obviously trying very hard to look after themselves and making sure that they use the relevant products to manage the symptoms.”

Hannbeck says that while rising demand is causing issues, the government’s “lack of planning” is partly to blame for not adequately planning ahead to fix these issues as they arise.

She says: “For example, with cold and flu, we knew some months ago cases were going up and it was anticipated that there would be higher demand for these products. So you would have thought that plans would have been in place in terms of managing this with regards to liaising with manufacturers and getting the products in.”

In December 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care issued five new serious shortage protocols (SSPs) for three penicillin medicines, allowing pharmacists to temporarily supply alternative forms of penicillin to ensure that those in need of the drug can access it. Aside from penicillin, nine other SSPs were active in December.

The current supply chains for the provision of medicine in the UK, and around the world, are clearly not effective enough as a whole at the moment. Supply chains in a range of industries have suffered over the past few years, but with something as important as medicine, all organisations involved in pharmaceutical supply chains have a responsibility to ensure that there is enough supply to cover demand.

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