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Charities call on Health Secretary to carry out urgent review of medicines supply chain

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Nicola Swanborough

Charities call on Health Secretary to carry out urgent review of medicines supply chain

The Epilepsy Society is calling on Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to carry out an urgent review of the medicines supply chain as our own survey, carried out with other health charities, shows the struggles that people are experiencing in accessing life-saving medication.

The survey, carried out with Epilepsy Action, SUDEP Action and Parkinson’s UK, showed that:

  • 70% of respondents have had difficulties getting vital medication over the past year 
  • 22% report problems in the last month 
  • 55% had to visit multiple pharmacies before getting hold of their medication 
  • 66% were only given a fraction of the amount that was on their prescription until more supplies were available
  •  40% saw a worsening of symptoms that they attributed to the stress of trying to get their prescription filled 
  • Almost 40% of respondents with epilepsy reported having seizures induced by having to switch or skip medication
  • 36% of respondents with Parkinson’s said that facing this difficult choice led to their symptoms worsening.

The survey comes as a report by the Nuffield Trust shows that medication shortages have become ‘the new normal’ in post-Brexit Britain. The think tank says that the number of shortages reported by drug companies has doubled in the last three years; price concessions have risen sharply; and the UK’s ability to respond to shortages has been severely weakened.

The four charities are calling on Victoria Atkins to find a permanent solution to the medication shortages as people with epilepsy are the most severely affected.

In their letter, the charities have told the Health Secretary: “We believe that the whole of the medicines supply chain needs urgently reviewing. We need clarity and a guarantee that pharmacists will be able to dispense the medications people with long-term health conditions need. 

"Preparation for Brexit meant that all drug manufacturers were required to have a minimum six-week stockpile of medications to ensure continuous supply for patients. It showed that the system could work more efficiently when challenged. Today, it would seem that the industry has reverted to a ‘just-in-time’ model. We appreciate that the problem is multifactorial and that the supply chain is complex. But so are epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

"The two conditions both pose huge challenges for people on a daily basis, but the one given is that they should be able to access – without question – their life-saving medication. We would be grateful to meet with you on behalf of the 800,000 people with epilepsy and Parkinson’s in the UK to discuss long-term solutions to address the issue of medicines supply.”

The survey results were highlighted by anchorman Dan Walker in Channel 5’s evening news programme and ITV followed up with a feature about the impact of medication shortages for people with epilepsy on their 6.30pm and 10pm news bulletins. We have also been able to raise the issue through the Telegraph, Guardian and several pharmaceutical journals.

You can read the full letter to Victoria Atkins below.

Letter to Health Secretary, Victoria Atkins

Second page to Victoria Atkins, Health Secretary


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