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Patients suffer from drugs shortage

PUBLISHED: 17:00 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:34 02 July 2010

Dan Grimmer

Patients with serious and long term health conditions in Norfolk are being denied life-prolonging drugs because of a shocking shortage of medication.

Patients with serious and long term health conditions in Norfolk are being denied life-prolonging drugs because of a shocking shortage of medication.

The fall of the pound has created a market for wholesalers to sell drugs at a higher price in other countries which has resulted in a worrying short supply for many counties in the UK.

It is particularly concerning for people in rural communities in Norfolk where medicines seem to be harder to obtain with fewer pharmacies and GP practices.

It is estimated that hundreds of patients, some with cancer, epilepsy, serious lung conditions and other long term illness, are missing out on medication they need on a regular basis.

The situation has become so severe that North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has raised the issue in parliament and written a letter to the health secretary, Andy Burnham.

He said: “People are literally struggling to get medicines and it means they could be at risk. Wholesalers are under no obligation to supply to the NHS and they make more money abroad.”

A growing number of people were told by GPs and pharmacists that drugs have run out or they have to wait a few days for fresh supplies.

The Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee unanimously agreed to write to the House of Commons Health Select Committee about the problem which involves 12 of the country's biggest drug companies but it has since got worse.

A number of medicines are affected, including Keppra, an anti-seizure medication for epilepsy, which is also used as a mood stabiliser for people with bipolar disorder; blood pressure medicine Aprovel and Zoton FasTab for stomach and bowel ulcers.

Wolfgang Altmann, 57, has been going to Holt Medical Practice in Holt for 25 years and was “perfectly happy” with the care he received for asthma until December last year when he was unable to get an inhaler on prescription.

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