Norfolk patients concerned over drug shortage

Concerns have been raised as Norfolk patients struggle to get hold of a drug used to treat high blood pressure.

Patients who use minoxidil will have to wait up to two weeks to get hold of the medicine because of a national shortage.

The tablets are used for the treatment of high blood pressure, but are also widely used to treat hair loss.

New deliveries of the drug are expected on November 8 at the earliest.

Health chiefs today urged patients to buy their medication from accredited pharmacists as the shortage prompts people to turn to the internet.

Neville Harper, of Woods Close, Hellesdon, has been using minoxidil to treat his high blood pressure for more than a decade. His cardiologist discovered that the drug was the only effective treatment for his blood pressure. The 72-year-old takes five of the tablets a day and only has two weeks' worth left. He has ordered some online to see him through, costing more than 50p per pill.

Mr Harper, who was diagnosed with heart disease more than 30 years ago, said: 'I think it's serious and really worrying. I've spoken to my pharmacist and my doctor but they can't do anything, they said they can't get hold of them. If my blood pressure goes up again then oh blimey, I don't want that to happen. I've been there before and I don't want that to happen again.'

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Last year, there was a shortage of dozens of medicines, including blood pressure medicine Aprovel, schizophrenia drugs Risperdal and Invega, and Concerta, used to treat attention-deficity hyperactivity disorder.

At the time, the shortage was blamed on the weak pound making it cheaper for European countries to buy British drugs.

A spokesman from Pfizer, the manufacturer of minoxidil, said this recent shortage of minoxidil was due to transfer of manufacturing site. He said they now had 10mg tablets in stock and were waiting for the 2.5mg and 5mg strengths to come back in.

Chris Ball, member of the Norfolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: 'We have had quite a lot of enquiries on the phone from people in Norfolk who cannot get hold of it and we've had to say no. There's a concern for patients that are stable on it. The problem is whether or not they can switch to another form of medication or if that's the only drug which can treat them.'

Ian Small, deputy head of prescribing and medicines management at NHS Norfolk, said: 'We have been informed by the manufacturer that there is currently a national shortage of minoxidil in the 2.5mg and 5mg strengths. There are no reserve stocks of the drug at the manufacturers.

'We advise anyone who usually has minoxidil on prescription and is unable to obtain it, to try a neighbouring pharmacy. If an online pharmacy is required, it is important to ensure it is UK based. The quality of medicines imported into the UK via websites outside the UK cannot be guaranteed. If you are in any doubt, please contact your GP.'

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