Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

I am a kidney transplant patient and am thus dependent on a number of immunity- suppressant and other drugs.

On the last three occasions when I have gone to my chemist to collect a prescription, they have not been able to supply one or more of my drugs in a timely manner. I have built up a small reserve and have, so far, been able to manage but am concerned that the system now seems to be struggling on a regular basis.

My pharmacist has expressed concern about this situation and it appears to be getting worse.

Is this a problem of which the department is aware? What (if anything) is being done to secure the supply of essential drugs (especially with the spectre of Brexit looming)?

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Greenaway

Department of Health and Social Care

Our ref: DE-1160522


Dear Mr Greenaway,
Thank you for your correspondence of 18 December about medicines
shortages.  I have been asked to reply.

I was sorry to read of your health problems and appreciate your concerns
about continued access to your medicines.  As it is unclear what medicines
you refer to, I can only reply in general terms.


Firstly, I must clarify that the Freedom of Information Act only applies
to recorded information such as paper or electronic archive material.  As
your correspondence asked for general information, rather than requesting
recorded information or documentation, it did not fall under the
provisions of the Act.


It might help if I explain that medicine supply problems can occur for a
number of reasons such as manufacturing difficulties, regulatory problems
and problems with the supply of raw materials, or from issues which are
related to the distribution of the product.  The manufacture of medicines
is complex and highly regulated, and materials and processes must meet
rigorous safety and quality standards.  There is a team within the
Department that deals specifically with medicine supply problems arising
both in the community and hospitals.  Where it is aware of medicine supply
issues, it works closely with the Medicines and Healthcare products
Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the pharmaceutical industry, NHS England and
others operating in the supply chain to help prevent shortages and to
ensure that the risks to patients are minimised when they do arise.


I can only suggest that you discuss any concerns about accessing your
prescribed medication with your GP.


Regarding the supply of medicines after the UK leaves the EU, ministers
are committed to ensuring that patients have safe and timely access to
medicines remains unchanged.  The Department knows that maintaining
continuity of supply of all medical products, including medicines, medical
radioisotopes, vaccines, blood products, devices and consumables, after
the UK leaves the EU is essential.


The Department is working with its partners across Government, in the
health sector and in industry to prepare for any possible disruption in
the supply chain.  While this does not mean that it is expecting such
disruption, the Government is preparing for all exit scenarios.


Ministers understand that your medicine is vitally important to you and
are aware that concerns have been raised recently that patients will have
to stockpile their own medicines.  The Department would like to reassure
you that this is not the case, and patients can be confident in the
Government’s contingency plans.  These include sensible strategies for
medicines that come to the UK from or through the EU, such as
precautionary stockpiling by suppliers, to ensure that the supply of
essential medicines to patients is not disrupted.


On 7 December, the Government published updated reasonable worst-case
scenario border disruption planning assumptions in the event of a no-deal
EU Exit.  Medicines and medical products are prioritised in
cross-Government planning, and the Department is working with relevant
partners across the Government and industry to guarantee sufficient
freight capacity to maintain continuity of supply of these products to the
whole of the UK.


For commercial reasons, the Government will not be releasing the lists of
medical supplies for which it is seeking to develop stockpiling
arrangements.  The list of medicines is subject to change, and the
Department is working with individual suppliers directly to confirm which
specific medicines are currently in scope for our programme.


I hope this reply is helpful.

Yours sincerely,
Ola Adigun
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health and Social Care



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