Health Secretary Steve Barclay has moved to reassure UK residents there is a “good supply” of penicillin after a top pharmacist warned of a shortage of the drug. Pharmacy director Zesham Rehmani criticised the Department of Health for “being out of touch” after it considered plans to give antibiotics to schoolchildren to help fend off illnesses, including Strep A.
The senior pharmacist said: “There’s no drugs. Today, we haven’t been able to get any penicillin in stock at all”. But Health Secretary Steve Barclay told Sky News this morning (Wednesday, December 7) that he had contacted medical suppliers who insisted there was a “good supply” of penicillin in the UK.
Speaking to Kay Burley, the Health Secretary told the programme: “I checked with the team last night. We have an established team in the department that does this on a permanent basis, and they reassured me we have a good supply. The medical suppliers are required to notify us if they’ve got shortages.
“Now, sometimes, GPs can have particular surges if they’ve got a lot of demand in an area, and that’s quite routine. We can move the stock around our depots. As of last night, when we checked, they said they could reassure us they’ve got good stock and were moving that around to meet demand.”
The National Pharmacy Association said there had been a spike in demand for some antibiotics, including those used to treat Strep A infection in children. At least nine children across the UK have died from the illness so far this winter.
A statement from the NPA said: "Pharmacies are having to work very hard to obtain stocks of these antibiotics, and some lines are temporarily unavailable. We have been advised by wholesalers that most lines will be replenished soon, but we cannot say exactly when that will be.
"As always, pharmacists will continue to work with local GPs to help people get the medicines they need as promptly as possible, which may require a change of prescription."