Supply problems are still a major issue. Quotas are still in place and, in many cases, medicines need to be ordered directly with manufacturers, quoting the script serial number to confirm a script is to be filled. Therefore, it’s impossible to keep any stock to supply on demand and we then risk losing that script. It is very difficult to get these quotas amended. At the beginning of the month, the medicine may come via the wholesaler and once the quota is reached (and we don't know what the limits are) supply suddenly stops. It’s very frustrating. – the only relief is when the manufacturer's patent expires and the drug goes generic. This is a never-ending story.
Fiona McElrea, Whithorn Pharmacy, Dumfries
There are still problems with the quotas that pharmacies are supposed to have. It is difficult to explain the background behind the supply issues to a patient who comes into the pharmacy very ill and desperately needing a particular medicine. The patient doesn’t appreciate the supply issues, because to them it is their illness that should take priority. We have to explain to the patient that we are only allowed to have so much and that can cause a delay.
Shaheen Bhatia, P&S Chemist Health and Advice Centre, Ilford
Some generics are still a problem. However, the supply of ethical medicines and restrictions due to quotas etc - while still a problem - does not appear to be quite the problem it was for us.
David Evans,Manor Pharmacy, Nottingham
I still have an issue with quotas that have been arbitrarily set by the manufacturers. We have a situation where it is extremely hard to navigate through the system and we are pushed from pillar to post, and the wholesalers and manufacturers each blaming the other on the setting of quotas. They won’t increase your quota, even when you regularly phone the companies to extract yet another single packet at a time from them on a monthly basis. This is yet another situation with no transparency. Our profession is plagued with situations that are veiled in secrecy. What a farce.
Raj Rohilla, Battersea Pharmacy, London
Patient care is always the top priority for pharmacists, so it is very frustrating when prescriptions can’t be fulfilled. Stock shortages cause great frustration for patients who have to shop around, and for GPs who have to find clinically equivalent medication. Avicenna members tell us that supply remains very patchy. In such times, it makes sense for manufacturers to achieve the best price for their goods. As there is no central data-bank of stock availability, a pharmacist’s time is often diverted from front line health delivery to sourcing drugs. And when a source is discovered, other issues such as minimum order and pricing (at times higher than the Drug Tariff) kicks in. And yet, there is still no acknowledgement from the Department of Health that there is such a problem at all.
Raj Haria, Commercial director, Avicenna
Yes and no. It’s a mixed bag. We’re still finding that we’re spending an inappropriate amount of time chasing up supply issues, rather than dealing with patient’s problems and concerns.
William Hughes, RJ Jones Pharmacy, Nefyn, Wales