Salbutamol Nebuliser Liquid Unit Dose Vials 2.5mg/2.5ml 20 shortage hits hospitals, pharmacies, and surgeries

Apr 8, 2024 | General

On the 15th of March the Health Distributor Association (HDA) reported that there was a critical shortage in hospitals of these life-saving medicines used as rescue medication by patients with asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

Hospitals have been advised to place urgent orders and not wait for supplies to be exhausted. There is no real alternative to Salbutamol and it’s a critical part of daily medicine and risks serious harm to patience if supply issues are not resolved quickly. The 2.5 mg pack of this critical medicine has been available for just under £2 for a very long period of at least 10 years. However, between June 2017 and July 2018 the average market price fell to £1.40. At this point manufacturers may have decided that this product was not profitable in the long-term and withdrew some of their manufacturing capability.

Charles Joynson, WaveData MD, comments….
It was likely to be long term competition which forced market prices down as the drug tariff had remained at £1.91 since March 2019. However, prior to that the drug tariff had been £1.99 since May 2005, and had been at around the £5 mark since 2000. So long term reductions in reimbursement also had a role to play in the current shortage.

Consequently, market prices rose above £2 in September 2021, above £3 in April 2022 and hit £14 in December 2023. Concessions have been granted in five months since June 2022 and the drug tariff has risen gradually to the March 2024 level of £15.18.

It’s possible that if the drug tariff price for this product had been maintained at £2 or above we may have avoided the shortage completely. This might have made the increase in the drug tariff and the concessions completely unnecessary. Additionally, it commonly takes manufacturers two years or more to recommence manufacturing a product that they had previously cancelled.

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