New Strep A medicines announced as antibiotic demand soars in UK

Strep A: Manchester pharmacist discusses supply issues

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The Government has announced that it will make three new medicines for Strep A available as demand for treatment for the disease has surged, putting pressure on antibiotic supplies. The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSE) has issued what is known as a Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) for three penicillin medicines on Thursday – a standard procedure, used to manage temporary and potential medicine supply issues. 

 

DHSE has stressed that they are a safe and effective way to ensure that medicines are kept available for everyone in needs, while saving time for patients, pharmacists and prescribers. The order will let pharmacists legally supply the specified alternative medicine – in this case penicillin – while getting rid of the need for the patient to return to the prescriber. 

This reportedly saves time in GP practices and removes the inconvenience for patients. Normally, when a patient presents a prescription, pharmacists by law can only supply what is on the prescription. 

If the medicine isn’t available, the patient has to go back to the prescriber to get a new prescription for an alternative treatment. This comes as demand for penicillin has skyrocketed in recent weeks because it is used to treat Strep A and Scarlet Fever, both of which have been raising fears of worried parents as due to an increase in reported cases. 

For this reason, some pharmacists are reportedly experiencing temporary and localised supply shortages and may not have the specific information listed on people’s prescriptions. 

 

 

Minister of State for Health Will Quince said: “The increased demand for the antibiotics prescribed to treat Strep A has meant some pharmacists have been unable to supply the medicine shown on the prescription.

“These Serious Shortage Protocols will allow pharmacists to supply an alternative form of penicillin, which will make things easier for them, patients, and GPs. We are taking decisive action to address these temporary issues and improve access to these medicines by continuing to work with manufacturers and wholesalers to speed up deliveries, bring forward stock they have to help ensure it gets to where it’s needed, and boost supply to meet demand as quickly as possible.”

This comes after the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed an out-of-season increase in scarlet fever and Strep A infections in the UK. However, there has so far been no evidence which indicates that there is a new strain.

Instead, it is thought that the surging cases are likely being caused by high amounts of circulating bacteria and more social mixing following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. 

This is a breaking story. More to follow. 

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