Emergency buffer supplies of drugs urgently need to be established to prevent shortages affecting patient safety, medicines wholesalers and pharmacy representatives have warned.
Ring-fenced stock for emergency supply could be held 'on consignment' by manufacturers in addition to usual stock holdings by wholesalers.
The proposals are made in a letter to drug manufacturers from the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (BAPW) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).
The two organisations said that there is widespread concern among pharmacists and wholesalers about shortages of branded medicines.
They argue that, unless business policies and practices are modified, timely access to medicines for patients, and their safety, is under threat.
A wide range of drugs have been affected by the shortages. They include insulin, asthma treatments and oral contraceptives, as well as immunosuppressants, cardiovascular drugs and psychological therapies for conditions such as depression, epilepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
They said that a number of factors are contributing to shortages. The weak pound has increased financial incentives for exporting medicines, and competition law allows easy access to wholesaler licences.
Meanwhile, manufacturers have limited the quantities of products being distributed in the UK, but are unable to obtain accurate data on supply needs.
'The status quo is not sustainable,' the organisations said in the letter. 'Urgent measures are needed to resolve the current problems.'
The BAPW and PSNC also propose that, alongside these emergency stocks, there should be moves to improve information exchange along the supply chain so that manufacturers have access to better information about supply needs.
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