Wholesalers warn of UK winter medicine shortage

Planned cuts in the price of branded medicines and a weak pound could leave the UK short of medicines this winter, the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (BAPW) has warned.

Medicines wholesalers have begun to lower stock levels in the run-up to January, when new drug prices will be introduced, the BAPW said. Wholesalers want to avoid buying stock at December prices that they will then have to sell at January’s lower prices, which reflect the 5 per cent cut in branded drug prices agreed by the government and the pharmaceutical industry.

The impact of the price changes comes on top of other changes that have reduced stock held by UK pharmaceutical wholesalers. The increasing use of IT ordering systems has meant wholesalers hold less stock of any given product.

In addition, exchange rates changes has made parallel import into the UK less attractive and export to countries such as Sweden and Denmark more attractive, putting further pressure on UK drug supplies.

Dr Bill Beeby, chairman of the GPC’s prescribing committee, said he would be concerned if changes to the pricing of medicines led to patients being unable to obtain the medicines they need. He stressed the importance of suppliers being able to obtain the medicines patients needed.

David Fisher, commercial director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said that pharmaceutical companies take their obligations to ensure product supply very seriously and would be discussing with their wholesalers their individual arrangements for supply over the new-year period.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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