NHS doctors warned to limit prescriptions of Prozac because stocks of the antidepressant are running low ‘due to manufacturing problems’
- Patients with enough pills to last until November should not be given more
- There have been long-term supply problems with the drug, officials said
- Prozac is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK
Doctors have been told to restrict prescriptions of Prozac amid a nationwide shortage of the antidepressant.
The drug fluoxetine – commonly known by its brand name Prozac – is in short supply due to manufacturing problems.
The Department of Health wrote to all GPs last week telling them to contact their patients who take the drug to ask how many supplies they have at home.
The letter stated that any patient with enough pills to last until November should not be issued with a repeat prescription, the magazine Pulse reported.
For those patients who are likely to run out, GPs have been given a list of alternatives including in some cases unlicensed 10mg capsules that are being sourced from abroad.
Patients should not have repeat prescriptions for Prozac filled if they have enough of the drug to last until November, the NHS has told GPs (stock image)
Prozac is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants and there were nearly seven million prescriptions for it in England last year.
The Department of Health said there would be supply problems with some doses of fluoxetine capsules until early November.
In a letter sent on September 20, it said: ‘Due to the long-term issues affecting fluoxetine 10mg, 30mg and 40mg capsules, we recommend the following actions be undertaken.
‘GPs and prescribers should identify all patients currently prescribed fluoxetine 10mg, 30mg and 40mg capsules.
‘Early contact should be made with the patient or patient’s parent/carer to determine if the stocks at home will last until early November.
HRT SHORTAGE ‘COULD LAST FOR 10 MONTHS’
An NHS shortage of hormone replacement therapy could last for another 10 months for some patients, experts have warned.
GPs and pharmacies revealed in August they were struggling to supply many leading brands due to manufacturing shortages and supply problems.
Experts warned some of the products, which are used to reduce symptoms of the menopause, might not be available again until ‘mid-2020’.
One supplier, Resource Medical, said it had been struggling to find a manufacturer for the UK market, adding that it had recently decided not to renew its Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency licence.
‘The market is such that we were being under-prescribed in comparison to the bigger brands, such as Elleste [Mylan] and, therefore, wasting more than half of our stock,’ spokesman Zul Akram said.
A shortage of the Themex products FemSeven Conti and Sequi has been caused by quality issues with the adhesive that keeps the patches attached to the skin.
It said that the products are unlikely to be back in stock until next year and that it was unable to suggest alternatives.
‘If the patient has sufficient supplies to last them until early November, then no further action is required. These patients should not be issued with a repeat prescription during this period.’
However, GPs said they were concerned at the extra workload required to contact all patients on the antidepressant.
Professor Azeem Majeed, head of primary care at Imperial College London, told Pulse: ‘Contacting patients would be a lot of work for practices as fluoxetine is a commonly-prescribed drug.
‘This illustrates how shortages of key drugs, as well as being stressful for patients, is also leading to extra work for practices and pharmacists at a time when they are already under considerable workload pressures.’
In another letter sent out the same day, GPs were also informed that certain tablets of the hormone therapy drug Provera will be out of stock until the 8 November.
The pills contain progesterone and are used to regulate menstruation, and to treat breast, womb and kidney cancers.
The Department of Health told doctors to consider prescribing an unlicensed preparation of the tablets as soon as possible to patients who can’t get the pills.
It is the latest in a series drug shortages, which have reached a peak in recent months due to a ‘perfect storm’ of production and manufacturing issues.
The crisis has caused more than half of HRT drugs to go out of stock. Some women have been forced into buying HRT medication from abroad as it is now almost impossible to get in Britain
Supplies of blood pressure pills, painkillers and epilepsy treatments have all been affected in recent months.
It means pharmacists are regularly having to send patients back to their GP to get a different prescription because they are unable to fill them.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of an issue with fluoxetine capsules from two UK manufacturers. However, supplies of alternative presentations of fluoxetine remain available from a number of manufacturers including the brand Prozac.
‘We have been working closely with NHS England and national experts and have issued advice on management options to the NHS to ensure patients can continue to be managed appropriately during this time.’