Patients struggle to secure lifesaving medicines as pharmacies battle supply disruption

Jamie Roberton

Former Health and Science Producer

  • Video report by ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan

Patients are facing increasing challenges to source lifesaving medicine, pharmacists have warned.

Chemists say they are "barely coping" and "at breaking point" with every major type of medicine experiencing supply issues.

This includes drugs for epilepsy, diabetes and depression.

A complex combination of factors have been cited for the shortages, including manufacturing issues, supply chains being stretched due to globalisation and the discontinuation of certain brands, driving demand up for alternatives.

One pharmacist told ITV News that while interruptions in supply were normal, he had never seen the situation so bad.

The trend emerged in a new poll of more than 400 chemists across the country who were asked which drugs they had struggled to obtain over the past six months.

Drugs for life-threatening conditions are in short supply. Credit: PA Wire

Figures revealed:

  • 84% experienced shortages of HRT for menopause

  • 58% struggled to source anti-epileptic drugs

  • 25% faced challenges in getting anti-depressant medication

  • 22% were hit by a shortfall of diabetes drugs

One pharmacy team told the survey, by the Chemist and Druggist website, that patients are “very anxious and full of fear about their lives”.

Shabir Chowdhury, a pharmacist in central London, said he had been left in the dark by his suppliers and was having to increasingly turn people away.

"It is concerning and I wish it wasn't like this. I've been qualified for 17 years and it has not been this bad before now - I just hope it doesn't get any worse."

Mother-of-two Fran Thomas, who is severely epileptic, has recently struggled to get hold of a vital drug that controls her seizures.

"If I miss one dose, I will have a seizure within twelve hours. We’re not talking about a facial cream here we’re talking about if I have a seizure - I will fall to the ground and I will hit my head.”

The Patients Association said: "It is unacceptable to hear that patients are being turned away due to lack of medicines, and with the additional uncertainty around the impact of Brexit, it is crucial that pharmacists are able to provide reliable information to patients."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We fully understand the concerns of those who require medications in their daily lives and want to reassure them that we are doing everything appropriate so they can access the medicines they need."