Shropshire Star

Surge in demand for Strep A antibiotics in Shropshire causes 'short-term' shortage

Shortages of antibiotics in Shropshire are expected to be a "short-term issue" in local pharmacies, say county health leaders.

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Pharmacist Nigel Dugmore

Pharmacies in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin say there has been a surge in demand for the liquid and solid forms of penicillin that are used to treat Strep A infections.

Nigel Dugmore, the superintendent pharmacist at the Donnington Pharmacy, said: "The system is struggling to keep up. There are two types of penicillin used to treat Strep A and it has all been out of stock.

"We had a delivery this morning but they are delivering it in quotas and we did not have a full quota."

He added that pharmacies had to buy the drugs at a higher price but could only recoup a certain amount from the NHS.

Mr Dugmore, who is also a borough councillor in Telford & Wrekin, said the advice would be "first of all, don't panic. If you are concerned you can bring your child into the pharmacy and we can spot the signs.

"We are aware that there are supply issues for all pharmacies. But we are hoping that the delivery that we had this morning is a sign that the supply issues might be resolved."

Ravi Nagra, the managing director of the MSN & Lunts Pharmacy group, said: "There is an issue with the supply of antibiotics, and we are finding getting supplies from wholesalers a huge struggle.

"It's common for an increase of Strep A this time of year especially around December to February. However, the increase in serious cases is causing a bigger demand and a large shortage of suitable antibiotics.

"All pharmacies are having the same issue and I think the doctors who are prescribing antibiotics are being understandably a lot more wary when they see patients with symptoms and are erring on the side of caution."

The MSN & Lunts Group has 10 pharmacies in Shropshire, Birmingham and the Black Country, including three in Shrewsbury and one in each of Craven Arms, Pontesbury and Highley.

Mr Nagra added: "Despite what the Government has said there is a national shortage of amoxicillin and penicillin, and this is not just affecting independent pharmacies.

"We are hoping that it is sorted out soon because at the moment our advice to patients is that if we don't have it in stock, you might have to try somewhere else - which isn't the advice we are comfortable giving when faced with an unwell child."

NHS leaders in the county are aware of what they call localised issues and they are expected to be only short-term.

Elizabeth Walker, deputy director of medicines management at NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said: “We are aware of localised issues for pharmacies in obtaining some commonly used antibiotics and are providing GP practices with daily availability at the three main wholesalers to try to manage the situation.

"Stock shortages are expected to be short term and the Department of Health and Social Care is in discussions with manufacturers to mitigate the current issues.

“Although Strep A is currently circulating at higher levels, it is worth noting that not every child with a sore throat will require antibiotics for treatment of the infection.

"GPs will clinically assess a child with suspected Strep A to decide whether antibiotics are needed. In those cases, GPs and local pharmacy teams will be working closely together to understand local availability and to manage antibiotic stocks accordingly.”

Supermarket chain Asda has pharmacies in the county and they too have noticed an increase in demand.

An Asda spokesperson said: “We have seen an increase in demand for antibiotics in recent weeks and can reassure families that there is enough stock in the supply chain to meet this demand.

"We are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that this gets onto shelves in our pharmacies as quickly as possible.”