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Drugs shortages lead to NHS patients suffering

Medicine shortages are having an “adverse” impact on patients, including vulnerable groups such as those with mental health problems, the House of Commons All Party Pharmacy Group said.Drugs shortages lead to NHS patients sufferingIn a report detailing its inquiry into medicine shortages, the group said the shortages had been mainly caused by the export of medicines intended for the UK market to other EU countries.

This exporting is conducted by speculators and is legal under EU and UK law, the report noted.

Highly qualified pharmacists are having to spend time locating medicines in short supply, the MPs noted.

But in spite of the best efforts of pharmacists, the group said it had been told of cases involving vulnerable patients not receiving the medicine they need because of shortages.

These included patients with mental health problems, epilepsy sufferers, diabetics, and even pregnant women in need of medicine to stabilise their pregnancy.

“Evidence we received highlights the stress, anxiety and sometimes harm that patients suffer,” the MPs said in their report.

The group warned that the UK has been experiencing shortages of NHS prescription medicines for four years.

“We have no objection to the export of medicines in principle, so long as this practice does not harm patients,” they said.

“However, throughout this inquiry, we have seen evidence that patients are suffering and that pharmacists’ time and resources are being diverted away from patient care as a result of medicines being in short supply.”

In its report, the group calls for a “renewed sense of urgency” to deal with the problem by those organisations involved in the supply of medicine.

The Government must “unequivocally” state that the interests of UK patients must come first and not provisions concerning the free movement of goods, it said.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The very least patients should be able to expect is for prescribed medicines to be available to them when required.

“However, all too often this simple expectation is not being met and as a result patients, some of whom have serious medical conditions that require medicine to remain stable, are being put at risk.

“The Government needs to investigate this problem as a matter of urgency, using the findings of this report as a starting point.”

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