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Column: How you can help with medicine shortage

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Currently, there are problems sourcing some medicines in Doncaster and across the whole UK, this may be worrying some patients.

I know that community pharmacies are working hard to try and make sure you get the medicines you need but I thought it’s worth providing you with some information about why there are shortages.

Some medicines are out of stock, recently, two manufacturers have had problems making their products, which has reduced their availability. Also, changes in financial exchange rates means that stock that would normally be sold to pharmacies in the UK may now be sent to other countries.

You may find you can’t get medicines from your usual pharmacy but another pharmacy has it and wonder why that is? There are two main reasons for this.

* different pharmacies use different suppliers and it will depend on whether wholesalers have stock or not; and

* some manufacturers restrict the amount of specific medicine that a pharmacy can order. This is known as a quota. Once a pharmacy has used their quota for the month it can be really hard to get any more until the start of the next month.

You may have heard the terms ‘brands’ and ‘generics’ and wondered what the difference is?

A generic name is the ingredient of the medicine, for example, ibuprofen. Often generic medicines are made by a number of manufacturers.

A brand is the name the manufacturer or pharmaceutical company gives to the medicine, such as, Nurofen (Ibuprofen). Only one manufacturer can make that particular brand.

If your doctor prescribes by brand name, the law says your pharmacist has to supply that particular brand. If your doctor prescribes using a generic name, the pharmacist can supply any manufacturer’s generic product.

Because some medicines are in short supply, your usual tablets may not be readily available. If this happens, your pharmacist may supply you with the same medicine but from a different manufacturer so your tablets make look slightly different to what you are used to. If you are not sure, talk to your pharmacist.

I know from conversations with the local pharmacy committee that Doncaster’s pharmacies are trying very hard to work round the problem by sourcing the items you need. This includes seeing if stock may be available for you in other pharmacies.

It’s a national problem and the Government is closely involved.But there are three key ways that Doncaster patients can help:

* order your medication in plenty of time (but no more than seven days before it is due)

* only order what you require. If you have unused medicines in your cupboard use these first (but remember to check the expiry date)

* your pharmacist is trying really hard to source medicines, so please bear with them until the situation is resolved.

And don’t forget, you can always ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about your medicines. They are a good resource of information.