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Government issues first serious shortage protocol to combat lack of the antidepressant fluoxetine

Published on 03/10/19 at 10:08am

The Department of Health and Social care has brought in measures to allow pharmacists to supply alternative strengths of fluoxetine without contacting a patient’s prescriber.

The measure has been put into place after news that manufacturing issues have hit supplies of fluoxetine 10mg, 30mg and 40mg capsules with some estimations that they will not be available again until early December.

The protocol was drawn up by a team of senior pharmacists and doctors with legislation coming into force on 1st July 2019 that meant a pharmacist could dispense against a protocol instead of a prescription, without going back to a prescriber first.

The serious shortage protocol will remain in place for as long as manufacturing issues mean the drug is in short supply to help alleviate pressure on the supply chain.

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Sandra Gidley, said: “If a pharmacist can sort out a patient’s requirements from existing stock it will save a lot of time and this can only be good news for patients.” She went on to add that fluoxetine substitutions were very straightforward to carry out.

Gidley further stated that “These shortage problems have been in existence for over 10 years. Although they are worse now than ever, the prime consideration must be patients – anything the government can do to ensure they get their medicines is welcomed.”

In addition to fluoxetine, the government has also announced restrictions on exporting 19 hormone replacement therapy products to tackle shortages. Numerous HRT products manufactured by Resource Medical, Themex and Mylan will soon be out of stock, with some not expected to be available until mid-2020.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical industry have already been asked by the government to maintain rolling six-week supplies of medicines in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Nik Kiran

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