Boots, Superdrug and other chemists report shortages of hay fever pills | Pharmaceutical industry
Major high street drugstore chains including Boots and Superdrug are running out of some hay fever medicines, with the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, blaming temporary supply problems.
Piriton and Piriteze tablets, made by GSK, are out of stock at Boots and other chains because there is an industry-wide shortage of the active ingredient chlorphenamine maleate, which is also used to treat eczema and food allergies.
The products should be back on shelves in the coming weeks, according to the industry.
GSK said its Piriteze allergy syrup, which is given to children, was not affected by the problems.
A GSK spokesperson said: “Due to reduced industry availability of certain active ingredients, we can confirm that GSK Consumer Healthcare is experiencing temporary supply shortages of Piriton and Piriteze tablets. We are aware that demand for these drugs will be high over the next few months and we are working hard to improve availability as soon as possible. »
Hay fever is caused by tree, grass and other pollens, and levels should be high in the next few days, according to the Met Office.
Boots said only four of its 90 hay fever relief products were affected by the shortages – Piriton tablets and its own version, both sold in different pack sizes. These antihistamines cause drowsiness, which is why many people prefer other drugs.
A Boots spokesperson said: ‘At Boots we offer a wide range of hay fever medicines, with good stock availability across our stores and online. There are a very small number of lines that are currently out of stock due to an ongoing industry-wide shortage of the active ingredient.
“However, we expect this to be resolved soon and further deliveries are expected in the coming weeks.”
Superdrug said it was experiencing shortages of two products, the Piriton 30s and 60s tablet packs, but had many alternatives such as its own brand allergy ranges with the active ingredients loratadine or cetirizine, and a another drug, Allevia.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said there was no reason to be alarmed about shortages, as there was a plentiful supply of other hay fever medicines.
Its president, Claire Anderson, said: “Chlorophenamine maleate is only a component of a few hay fever tablets, including Piriton, which is not a first-line choice for treating hay fever. in adults as it is more likely to make patients drowsy. Other drugs using cetirizine hydrochloride or loratadine are still widely available in pharmacies across the country, and fexofenadine is also available for general sale in pharmacies this year for the first time, so patients actually have more options than ever to treat their hay fever symptoms. ”
She said drug shortages were not a new problem and were something pharmacists had to manage and deal with on a daily basis. There could be a multitude of reasons, including manufacturing issues, global demand, or supply chain disruption. “Availability of some medications fluctuates, and it’s important to ask your pharmacist for alternatives,” she said.
“GPs, pharmacists and patient groups have asked pharmacists to be able to make minor changes to a prescription if they run out of stock – this should be seen as part of a package of measures to manage future drug supplies.”
A company spokesperson said the situation was different from the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) crisis, which started a few years ago and was caused by longer-term problems, rather than fluctuations. temporary supply. Unlike hay fever medication, there are far fewer HRT products on the market.
The UK Health Secretary last week promised to deploy more members of the vaccine task force to a new group set up to address the acute shortage of HRT products for postmenopausal women, after holding talks to crisis with HRT manufacturers and pharmacies. The new HRT team is led by Madelaine McTernan, who also leads the Vaccine Task Force.
Months of shortages in supply mean many postmenopausal women have trouble sleeping or working effectively because they can’t get their prescriptions.