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Corticosteroid inhaler supply problems at pharma company set for a month



A pharmaceutical company providing asthma inhalers has said it ‘cannot guarantee uninterrupted supply’ of one of its corticosteroid products over the next month.

Chiesi said delays in the supply of materials for its Clenil Modulite 100mcg pressurised metered dose inhalers were behind the problems.

It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care said there were also delays in inhalers being made available by wholesalers as they wait for manufacturers to replenish stock, following significant demand due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

The DHSC said it was aware the problems with Chiesi’s Clenil inhaler were ‘short term’ and that it expected further stock to start to become available in the week commencing 30 March.

However a number of other pharmaceutical companies have told Pulse they are not experiencing inhaler supply issues, with one noting it is still able to maintain its additional UK stockpile that was created for Brexit.

GP leaders said GPs ‘can and will say no’ to requests for additional medicines from patients that are increasing demand.

In a statement released today (24 March) on the impact of coronavirus on its operations, Chiesi said none of its other inhalers are currently affected by material supply problems and it is taking ‘all possible actions to ensure the continued supply of all other Chiesi medicines’.

But it also noted the current ‘significant demand’ in the UK for all Chiesi respiratory products.

It said this was leading to wholesalers becoming out of stock ‘for many lines in many of their depots whilst they are waiting for replenishment of their stocks from Chiesi’.

Some of the company’s manufacturing takes place in Italy, but Chiesi said the country’s Government was allowing pharmaceutical companies and suppliers to continue their work, which ‘has allowed our operations to continue as usual’.

As an alternative to using Clenil Modulite 100mcg, the company said its 50mcg or 200mcg versions are available and may be used if clinically appropriate.

But it highlighted the 200mcg strength is not licensed for use in children and urged healthcare professionals to consult the British National Formulary for licensed indications and dosage requirements prior to prescribing.

The company called on healthcare professionals to write monthly repeat prescriptions, instead of those lasting several months ‘until the acute pressures begin to ease’.

The statement said: ‘At present in the UK there is significant demand in the supply chain for all Chiesi respiratory products and this is leading to our wholesaler partners suffering from out of stock situations for many lines in many of their depots whilst they are waiting for replenishment of their stocks from Chiesi.

‘As a consequence, we are receiving many queries from customers regarding our stock and supply situation.

‘At this point in time our only supply issue is with Clenil™ Modulite™ 100mcg pressurised metered dose inhalers and as a result of a delay in material supply we cannot guarantee uninterrupted supply of this product over the next month.’

It added: ‘Currently this is the only Chiesi product affected by this situation and we are taking all possible actions to ensure the continued supply of all other Chiesi medicines.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee chair, said: ‘We’re aware from some of our GP members that their patients have been unable to get hold of their regular inhalers. This may be due to issues in the global supply chain, but also an increased demand from patients asking for inhalers that they would not normally need.

‘We understand that some patients with asthma will be naturally concerned about Covid-19, but it is vital that patients do not ask their GP to prescribe them anything other than the medicines and amounts that they need or regularly receive.

‘While these conversations can be difficult, GPs can and will say no to such requests. This ensures that those who do rely on such drugs are able to get hold of them.’

A spokesperson for  pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca said it ‘has business continuity processes in place to ensure patients continue to receive their medicines’ and that it was monitoring the situation closely.

They added: ‘In the UK, we continue to maintain the additional stock holdings that were built in preparation for Brexit and are confident that we have sufficient product to maintain availability to patients.’

A spokesperson for GSK said: ‘At this time, we have no issues with the supply of our steroid inhalers. As this is a dynamic situation, we are continuing to monitor closely should this change.’

Another inhaler manufacturer, Mylan, also told Pulse it was ‘not experiencing any supply constraints for [steroid inhaler] products at this time’.

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘We know how distressing shortages can be and we are doing everything we can to help ensure patients can access their inhalers as demand continues to rise.

‘Supplies are currently available and healthcare professionals and patients should only prescribe and order what they need to ensure all everyone can continue to access their medicines uninterrupted.’