Britain is facing an almost unprecedented problem of shortages in the supply of vital drugs for patients with serious, often life-threatening conditions. Pharmacists across the country are reporting severe difficulties in sourcing drugs used in the treatment of people with cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, schizophrenia and many other illnesses.
Pharmacies used to ordering drugs and receiving them almost immediately now find that they cannot obtain a regular supply to meet their patients’ needs. It has become routine for those working in pharmacy jobs to have to spend hours every day trying to track down and order these crucial drugs. Up to fifty different drugs used by millions of patients are now difficult and in many cases practically impossible to obtain.
As a result of these shortages many people are having their health put at risk. Women with breast cancer, for example, are usually treated with the drugs, Femara or Armidex.
Many of them, however, are now being prescribed other, less suitable drugs because supplies of the preferred drugs are unavailable. Treatments for cancer, as with many conditions, depend on patients taking them for a set period at regular intervals without interruption. For those taking drugs as a preventative measure, such as pills that control high blood pressure, the lack of supply can lead to much more serious problems such as strokes or heart attacks.
[box type=”note”]This shortage crisis in pharmacies has been mainly caused by EU trade regulations. Designed to ensure a free market in goods across Europe, these rules have inadvertently led to widespread disparities in the prices of drugs in different countries. Wholesalers and traders have reacted by diverting supply from areas where drugs are cheap to places where they can obtain the highest price.[/box]
The situation is exacerbated in Britain because it is outside of the Eurozone. Currency fluctuations have the effect of suddenly raising or lowering the price of drugs compared to other European countries. The price of many drugs has dropped in this country because the pound has devalued in recent years. Traders are thus able to buy them here cheaply and sell them on with a large mark-up to other countries.
Government attempts to restrict this trade have largely failed because they have fallen foul of EU legislation that aims to ensure the free flow of goods within Europe. Ironically, before the drop in the value of the pound Britain was able to take advantage of this situation by importing cheaper drugs from other European countries such as Spain and Greece.
Where once the role of those in pharmacy jobs was to ensure that patients were supplied with the right drugs at the right time to treat their conditions, it has now become much more difficult due to the vast profits that can be made from these life-saving products. The government has taken steps to prevent ordinary pharmacists from engaging in this cross-border trade, but cannot stop those with the appropriate wholesale dealer’s licence exporting drugs to other countries.
What Needs to Be Done…
Because of the nature of regulated markets in the EU the solution to this pressing issue cannot be imposed by one country but will have to be implemented by Brussels with rules that apply to all members of the EU. Only when this is done will pharmacy jobs once more be about meeting patients’ requirements without having to be concerned with issues of international trade.
This article was written by Robert Elliot who enjoys blogging on a number of topics including the burning issues within the medical sector. He is currently working for Nuffield health a medical site who advertise a number of medical jobs.