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A shortage of 70 everyday medicines could leave millions of patients without vital treatment. Painkillers such as codeine, asthma inhalers, antidepressants and sleeping tablets all appear on the latest out-of-stock drugs list.
Doctors and pharmacists have raised the alarm fearing patients will be forced to suddenly stop taking prescribed treatments.
This risks worsening or prompting the return of illnesses, withdrawal symptoms or other complications.
Everyday drugs such as Gaviscon, Benylin and even stop-smoking tablets are unavailable or in limited stock, according to Alliance Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest suppliers.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Pharmacies, said: “Getting hold of medicines has become a daily struggle for pharmacists.
“We spend hours on the phone contacting suppliers to get hold of some of the most common medicines, such as painkillers, antidepressants and antibiotics.
Dr Hannbeck, added: “We have been told by manufacturers that this year is going to be even more challenging regarding supply, so naturally we are concerned.
“The price of medicines continues to increase as well, leaving pharmacies out of pocket.
“As soon as demand for a medicine goes up, the supply struggles.” She said that for more than a year, the Government had failed to heed warnings.
Mark Samuels, of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, said the situation is worse than at any time during his career.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We work with a wide range of organisations operating in the UK medicine supply chain to provide advice and help ensure that patients continue to have access to safe and effective treatments.”
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