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Home » More Pharmacies Say They Can’t Get Hold Of Strep Antibiotics – But PM Insists There Is ‘no Shortage’

More Pharmacies Say They Can’t Get Hold Of Strep Antibiotics – But PM Insists There Is ‘no Shortage’

More pharmacies have claimed they are unable to get hold of antibiotics – as the government continues to insist there is “no shortage”.

Pharmacy director Zeshan Rehmani criticised the Department of Health for being “out of touch” after it mooted proposals to give antibiotics to children in schools to help fend off illnesses including Strep A – saying: “There’s no drugs. Today, we haven’t been able to get any penicillin in stock at all.”

Addressing the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions today, Rishi Sunak said: “There are no current shortages of drugs available to treat this and there are well-established procedures in place to ensure that that remains the case.”

To date, at least nine children across the UK have died from complications caused by the Strep A infection.

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What is Strep A? Earlier on Wednesday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay told Sky News he had been reassured by medical suppliers that there is a “good supply” of penicillin, though he admitted some GPs may have shortages while stock is moved around.

“I checked with the team last night – we have an established team in the department that does this on a permanent basis – and they reassured me we have good supply. The medical suppliers are required to notify us if they’ve got shortages.

“Now, sometimes, GPs can have particular surges if they’ve got a lot of demand in an area, and that’s quite routine, we can move the stock around our depots.

“As of last night, when we checked (with suppliers), they said they could reassure us that they’ve got good stock and were moving that around to meet demand.”

‘Serious shortage’

But Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said if there is a decent supply of stock, “pharmacies are not getting them”.

She tweeted: “Pharmacies are reporting shortage of amoxicillin liquid for children at a time when cases of Strep A are rising.”

And she told Sky News that wholesalers across the country are all out of stock, adding there has been a huge surge in demand for antibiotics since November.

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Strep A outbreak in charts Dr Hannbeck said that if Mr Barclay has the supply, “we would very much like to see it flowing through pharmacies”.

She added: “This is not a localised issue – it is happening across the country.”

Sri Kanaparthy, who owns four pharmacies – three in county Durham and one in Barrow-in-Furness – said “there is a serious shortage” of antibiotics, especially in liquid form.

“We have eight suppliers, and every single one is out of stock (of penicillin and amoxicillin).”

On Mr Barclay’s comments, he said: “It’s quite frustrating, if you don’t acknowledge the problem then you are not going to solve it.”

He blamed the issue on increased demand but also “a lack of planning”, before adding: “Pharmacy funding has been frozen for the last five years.”

More pressure on the NHS

Becky Elmes, the owner of Ferndown pharmacy in Bournemouth, accused Mr Barclay of spouting “a load of rubbish”.

“We are having massive issues getting antibiotics, especially the liquids for the children,” she said.

“I am very angry that the health minister has told the public there is no problem, he has no clue what is really happening on the ground.

“We can’t supply basic antibiotics to sick children. It’s starting to get dangerous, something bad is going to happen if the government doesn’t do something about it.”

Ms Elmes said there have been shortages for the last six months but in recent weeks the problem has got worse.

She said five of the UK’s biggest wholesale suppliers have run out of amoxicillin and penicillin so she “doesn’t know where Steve Barclay is getting his information from”.

“The whole supply chain is a complete mess,” she said.

Ms Elmes warned that the shortages will put more pressure on other NHS services.

“If it’s out of stock, we have to refer them back to 111 to see if they can get an alternative prescription”, she said.

“Last night there was a child who was really poorly. Their mother was asking what to do and I said you might have to go to hospital.”

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Ninth child dies in Strep A outbreak Read more:

What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?

Strep A generally causes mild infections – why the spate of deaths now?

A GP in Putney, Dr Barnes, told Sky News that no penicillin liquid was available in seven pharmacies last night.

“We are having to give alternatives. Still no Chloramphenicol eye drops for conjunctivitis… we are using Fucidin instead which is much more expensive.”

Vikki Pierce, a nurse from Crawley, West Sussex, said her two-year-old son regularly suffers from tonsillitis and came down with a high temperature on Monday.

After a GP prescribed penicillin, she “spent four hours driving around pharmacies trying to get some”.

“I went to five pharmacies in my local area, there were lots of parents queuing for antibiotics the pharmacies did not have. I called a pharmacy in a town 15 miles away that had some in stock and they agreed to hold it for me. I got there at half past eight at night.”

Stockpiling after reports of shortages

Sky News correspondent Paul Kelso said that after speaking with the pharmaceutical industry, “they will tell you what the health secretary and the prime minister have been saying today… that there is not a supply issue”.

He added that members of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) – which represents companies that research, develop and manufacture over-the-counter medicines – also claim there is no supply chain issue and no shortages.

But he said they did point out that when there are reports of shortages in the media, in light of the Strep A outbreak, “you do get people stockpiling, trying to make sure that they don’t run short”.

“So it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

He added: “It should be said that some of the drugs that have been prescribed – amoxicillin is one of them. There have been shortages of that particular drug in the United States and in Europe.”

“It does appear that there is an issue of getting those supplies of drugs into the hands of pharmacists. That’s the only way you can explain the consistent line from the pharmaceutical industry on high streets that they are unable to fulfil prescriptions from patients who’ve been prescribed by GPs.

“Ultimately, though, if you are a patient or a parent of someone who’s been prescribed, all that really matters to you is whether you can get your hands on the drugs.”