Number of drug shortages on MIMS tracker reaches record high

Medicines supply issues continue to impact general practice as the number of drugs on the MIMS shortages tracker topped 150 for the first time earlier this month.

Line graph showing number of drug shortages from start of 2021 to present
The number of drug shortages on the MIMS tracker is at its highest since its launch in 2019. | mims.co.uk

The number of drugs listed as out of stock on the MIMS shortages tracker reached 153 last week for the first time since it was launched in April 2019.

Recently added shortages affect Hapoctasin (buprenorphine), Medrone (methylprednisolone), Suprecur (buserelin), Testim (testosterone) and several skin preparations (Aknemycin Plus [erythromycin/tretinoin], Betnovate [betamethasone] and Eumovate [clobetasone]).

There are currently seven drugs on the MIMS shortages tracker falling under the Serious Shortages Protocol (SSP) rules, which allow pharmacists to dispense an alternative to the prescribed product without needing to contact the prescriber. These are primarily HRT preparations with most set to expire at the end of this month.

PSNC concerned

The peak in shortages on the MIMS tracker coincided with a statement from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) which said that it was becoming "increasingly concerned about the sustained pressures on medicines supply and the very serious impact that this is having on community pharmacy teams and their patients."

In a recent survey conducted by the PSNC two thirds of respondents stated that medicines supply chain issues are now a daily occurrence, with 83% of pharmacies reporting that they had seen a significant increase in medicines supply issues in the past year.

Effects on GPs

Similarly, in a survey conducted in 2021 by MIMS sister website GPonline, over 80% of GPs responding to questions regarding drug shortages stated that they had been forced to prescribe a second-choice drug within the previous year as a result of shortages. Around 80% of respondents said that their workload had increased as a result of drug supply issues.

In addition, both pharmacists and GPs responding to the two surveys reported incidences of aggression towards staff from patients left angry and frustrated by drug shortages. 

DHSC price concessions

In an attempt to limit the financial impact of drug shortages on pharmacy contractors, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has a price concession scheme whereby drugs that are only available at a price above that listed in the Drug Tariff due to supply issues with cheaper alternatives may be reimbursed at the higher price.

The PSNC states that the sustained increases in price concessions seen so far this year, with more than 100 concessions granted in some months, shows no signs of abating causing many pharmacies to find themselves in a critical situation trying to source medicines in a timely manner and facing significant financial risk due to greater uncertainty around expected reimbursement prices for a large number of medicines.

Updated constantly, the MIMS shortages dashboard brings together all of the MIMS trackers, news and resources to help GPs manage drug shortages.

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