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Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health & Social Services

First published:
18 October 2023
Last updated:

Any disruption to the supply of a medicine is concerning to those people who need to take it and the clinicians overseeing their care.  

In general, disruptions affect a very small proportion of medicines used in the NHS and most shortages can be managed without people experiencing interruptions in supply.

Unfortunately, over the last 12 months, we have experienced some significant supply issues affecting hormone replacement therapy (HRT), some medicines used in the treatment of diabetes, and medicines used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

We are working with manufactures to increase production of these medicines to meet the increased demand.

A range of actions are being taken to mitigate the impact of these specific supply disruptions including providing prescribers with clinical advice on alternative treatment approaches; issuing Serious Shortage Protocols to allow pharmacies to substitute clinically appropriate alternatives when they are unable to obtain a prescribed medicine, and restricting the export of medicines in short supply.

But it is likely that disruption to the supply of these medicines may continue for several months.  Supplies of lisdexamfetamine 50mg, 60mg and 70mg capsules and 10mg and 20mg Equasym XL branded methylphenidate capsules are now available. Disruptions to all ADHD medicines other than the 18mg and 36mg strength capsules of methylphenidate will be resolved by 22 December.

Medicines shortages occur for a number of reasons, including increasing demand, which exceeds the manufacturer’s capacity to produce a particular medicine; disruption to the supply of raw materials, and problems encountered during the manufacturing process.

Maintaining the continuity of supply of medicines to the UK is a reserved matter and is the responsibility of the UK Government. However, managing the implications of supply disruptions for patients and the NHS requires co-ordinated action between the UK and devolved governments, and the NHS. 

Welsh Government officials work closely with their counterparts in the UK Government, manufacturers, wholesalers, prescribers and pharmacies to mitigate the effect of any disruption. 

Community pharmacies purchase medicines for dispensing from a number of different wholesalers. Each wholesaler sources products from manufacturers directly, but at times of intermittent supply they may not always be successful. This will have a consequential impact on the pharmacies supplied by them and can mean, at the local level, some pharmacies and dispensing doctors will be able to obtain a medicine even when others cannot.

We will continue to work closely with the UK Government, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), NHS Wales, GPs, and community pharmacies to support people to continue to receive the medicines they need.

Anyone who is having difficulty obtaining treatment should contact their doctor or pharmacist to discuss what alternatives might be available.