Fear over transplant drug supply

Transplant patients could be at risk following a distribution change involving the supply of tacrolimus to hundreds of dis-pensing practices, according to dispensing GPs.

Dr David Baker

Astellas Pharma, the manufacturer of Prograf and Advagraf, both forms of tacrolimus, will be shifting distribution to one wholesaler, Unichem, from the end of this month.

However, the Dispensing Doctors Association (DDA) said that less than two weeks' notice had been given, which does not give hundreds of dispensing practices time to arrange a Unichem account.

It is estimated that only 150 of the UK's 1,400 dispensing practices currently have a Unichem account.

The DDA is meeting with Astellas to try to find a resolution, with options including asking for a U-turn on the single wholesaler move.

Dr Richard West, DDA chairman, was unhappy with the short notice given.

Dr David Baker, DDA chief executive, said the switch to a single supplier follows problems with the quantity of the treatment being made available.

'We have been told that it has got the quantity right, it's just that some of it is going to other markets. By switching to a single wholesaler it gives it greater control but we are arguing that what there needs to be is more supply in the first place and to continue with multiple suppliers.'

The DDA is advising dispensing GPs to ensure that they arrange to purchase enough of the stock to cover patients' immediate needs until the situation can be properly sorted.

In a statement Astellas Pharma said: 'This change is in response to reports from UK pharmacists that they have had difficulties obtaining Prograf.

'We have acted with urgency to ensure the supply of these medicines to patients. We are confident this action will ensure the supply of these life saving medicines to UK patients.'


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