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Medicine shortages

During the current situation with Covid-19 there are inevitably going to be shortages of various pharmaceuticals. All sectors of the healthcare system are seeing an unprecedented workload and so it is imperative that all sectors appreciate the difficulties that each other are having. There are a long list of medicines that patients receive that do not have an easily substituted alternative and so all possibilities should be explored, before a prescriber is forced to make a change. Examples include, but are not limited to, antipsychotics, DMARDs, anti-hypertensives, antiglyceamics etc.. Patients will often have been stabilised on these medicines over a period of time and so switching will involve both considerable work and also multiple contacts with patients who are ideally self-isolating.

In order to reduce the impact of these stock shortages we would ask both pharmacies and surgeries to work together to bring about a satisfactory solution.


1. Find out how urgently the patient requires the medication. Shortages are often only temporary and if a patient has sufficient stock at home, the product may become available before there is a need

2. Obtain sufficient information from all suppliers. Do alternative suppliers have products in stock? When is the stock likely to be available?

3. Find out if there is an easy solution. Is a brand or alternative brand available? Are different strengths of the product available that can be doubled-up, cut in half, taken more or less frequently? Is a different suitable formulation of the medicine available? Eg liquid

4. Do other pharmacies have stock available? This includes pharmacies from other companies, who may use different wholesalers and can order the product

5. Speak to the prescriber directly. It is not acceptable to send messages with patients who will not have a full understanding of the situation and be unable to answer questions


1. Talk to pharmacy when contacting about stock shortages

2. Alter prescriptions accordingly to enable the legal supply of Prescription Only Medicines

3. Change medicines to suitable alternative brands, formulations, strengths