The NHS is facing shortages of medicines millions of Britons rely on, from antibiotics to painkillers, experts have warned.
It comes amid a supply chain crisis, which is expected to impact people with conditions including osteoporosis, hay fever, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Pharmacists told The Sun that drug shortages are driving up costs — in some cases by nearly 3,000%.
A pharmacy body has called the situation “critical” as supply problems show no signs of stopping.
Rising costs of raw materials supplied by China and India mean Britons face a ‘perfect storm’ when it comes to sourcing the most used pills, experts have previously warned.
Ashley Cohen, a pharmacist based in Leeds, said rising prices would likely mean some would choose not to buy the drugs in the first place.
“Pharmacies could instead refer patients to GPs for different prescriptions or send patients to different pharmacies.
“This wild geese hunt is making it much more difficult for patients to get medicine,” he explained.
Earlier this year, women in the UK were left without an adequate supply of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopausal symptoms.
Many are still struggling and last week UK pharmacies were given the power to dispense certain over-the-counter hormone replacement therapies.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said: “Pharmacies are doing everything they can to make sure they get the medicines for their patients so no one goes through a site. Illegitimate web to get fake products.
“Medicines are not like other products – many patients depend on them to save their lives,” she added.
One manufacturer once told the i: “It’s a perfect storm of supply chain issues and a failure to understand that there are very thin margins on whether a drug is viable to produce or not.”
The Pharmacy Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents England’s 11,200 pharmacies, said it had become “increasingly concerned” about the “critical” issue of drug supply.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Prescription Drugs Online
Many medicines are now available online, but experts say you should be wary of buying them if you can no longer get what you need from your GP.
Martin Preston, founder and CEO of Delamere, said it’s important to recognize when vendors are legitimate.
He said: ‘Regulated pharmacies will have a green and white logo displayed on their website saying ‘check if this website is operating legally.
“By clicking on it, you will be able to find a list of approved pharmacies and the medicines they are authorized to sell.”
However, he said he never recommends buying online because the risks outweigh the benefits.
“While it may be convenient for some, visiting your local pharmacy is always the best option when shopping for prescription drugs, as trained professionals are on hand to help you,” he added.
PSNC Director of Pharmacy Funding Mike Dent: “We are seeing a worrying rate of drug supply and pricing issues this year.
“This may mean that some patients have to wait a bit longer or that another prescription is needed.
“But despite this, we believe most medicines are still getting to patients normally thanks to the hard work of pharmacy teams and we ask members of the public to be patient with them,” he said.
What to do if your medicine is not available
If it is a prescription, your GP or nurse practitioner may give you a new prescription for an alternative medicine to the one you have been prescribed.
If it’s over-the-counter medication, talk to your pharmacist.