The Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) has said the current shortage of penicillin is part of a wider ongoing medicines supply issue experienced in recent months that should have been addressed.

In October, CPNI issued a warning about the supply of drugs due to spiralling costs and UK wide supply problems.

In Northern Ireland, CPNI say that pharmacists are further constrained due to significantly reduced funding and are therefore unable to keep higher levels of stock that are needed regularly in pharmacies and to pay wholesalers.

The recent surge in demand for penicillin has meant that pharmacies have run out of penicillin stocks more quickly and suppliers are struggling to supply the quantities that community pharmacies now need for patients.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI said:
“This is a worrying time for patients. Community pharmacists are working around the clock to source medicines like penicillin and we are asking people to work with their local pharmacy when there are supply issues.

“Medicine shortages have worsened significantly this year and although it is a UK wide issue pharmacies here are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain many common medicines. This was raised by Channel 4 News as early as October when it was reported that the NHS was facing a shortage of drugs, including anti-depressants and penicillin. Drug shortages have increased by 200% in a year, and we are all now seeing that impact.

“In Northern Ireland we have also recently issued warnings about the spiralling costs of the medicines that pharmacies here are struggling to meet.

“The surge in demand for penicillin is an example of how these supply issues are now impacting on the availability of common medicines on the ground. I would ask for patients to understand that community pharmacy teams are doing all they can to get stocks back into pharmacies. Please be patient with pharmacy teams as they do their utmost to get you the medicines you need in hugely challenging times.”

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