Medicine shortages: Charities lobby party leaders for permanent solution

Published: June 15 2024
Last updated: June 13 2024

Kami Kountcheva | Epilepsy and Parkinson’s charities have written to political party leaders this week calling for an urgent review of the medicine supply chain.

Pharmacist holding medicinesEpilepsy and Parkinson’s charities have written to political party leaders this week calling for an urgent review of the medicine supply chain.

Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Society, SUDEP Action and Parkinson’s UK urged party leaders to make the ongoing medicine shortages a priority and to “resolve this critical problem” if they get into power.

A recent Nuffield Trust report said the past two years had seen “constantly elevated medicines shortages”, which have now become a “new normal”.

The charities said: “In the last three years, the number of impending drug shortages reported by drug companies has doubled.”

Alison Fuller, director of Health Improvement and Influencing, said: “We are urging party leaders to pay attention to the calls of people with epilepsy and Parkinson’s, and make this a priority in the run up to the general election.

“This is not a new issue, but there is no clear solution to it yet. People with epilepsy need reassurance that whoever leads the next government will commit to finding a way out of this. They need assurance that they won’t have to worry about whether they’ll be able to access the medication they need to live their lives.”

Commuter back home on Westminster Bridge
"We’re hoping our joint efforts to bring this critical issue to light will result in long-term clarity. We need the new government, whoever leads it, to keep people with epilepsy and other long-term conditions safe."
Alison Fuller, director of Health Improvement and Influencing

The charities wrote to the UK health secretary Victoria Atkins in April, asking the government to review the medicine supply chain.


A ‘just-in-time’model

The charities warn that a consistent supply chain is vital to maintaining wellbeing and safety for people with long-term conditions, particularly epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

In a recent survey of 1,500 people with epilepsy and Parkinson’s, 70% said they had difficulty getting hold of their medication over the past year. Additionally, 66% of people said they were given only a fraction of their medicines until more came in.

Of people with epilepsy, almost 40% reported having seizures because of having to skip their medication or swap to a different brand’s version of their medication.

In the letter, the charities wrote: “We need clarity and a guarantee that pharmacists will be able to dispense the medications that people with long-term health conditions need.

“Preparation for Brexit meant that all drug manufacturers were required to have a minimum six-week stockpile of medications to ensure continuous supply for patients. It showed that the system could work more efficiently when challenged.

“Today, it would seem that the industry has reverted to a ‘just-in-time’ model. We appreciate that the problem is multifactorial and that the supply chain is complex. But so are epilepsy and Parkinson’s.”